Dale Watson is a Texas music hero. Over his long and prolific career, he's proven himself to be one of the last authentic voices in pure country music. In fact, in the spirit of the music's outlaw lineage, Dale has disavowed himself of the country label and begun calling his music Ameripolitan. However it might be described, on his latest album, From The Cradle To The Grave, it's the music that speaks the loudest. Marking his HYENA Records debut, Dale offers ten new songs that range from the epic Justice For All to the achingly beautiful ballad, It's Not Over Now. And if it sounds like Johnny Cash's presence is looming over the recordings, that's because it was. The album was recorded in Cash's old Tennessee Mountain cabin that was lent to Dale by its current owner Johnny Knoxville. With that in mind, Dale embraced the Cash aura and in the process turned out one of his best albums to date in an already impressive discography.
Though Dale Watson has long been a torchbearer for classic country, a throwback to the sounds of the 1960s and '70s, never before has he channeled so much inspiration from the late Johnny Cash. Recorded in Cash's cabin (since bought by Watson's actor buddy Johnny Knoxville), the songs really heavily on Cash's signature "boom-chicka-boom" rhythm, and the arrangements occasionally employ the sort of mariachi brass that evokes "Ring of Fire." Themes of life and death permeate the material. The title cut could have been a Cash outtake, while the "Runaway Train" finale pays him explicit tribute. Elsewhere, Watson changes pace by injecting some Waylon Jennings into "You Always Get What You Always Got," and lightening things up with "Hollywood Hillbilly." Watson's baritone and band are in fine form throughout. --Don McLeese