Dale Watson & The Texas Two The Sun Sessions

Good to see famed Sun Studios getting used by some big names. Hot on the heels of Chris Isaak's Beyond The Sun tribute comes Texan veteran Dale Watson and, like Isaak, he has the vintage Sun sound down pat on this, his 20th album. As he writes in the liner notes, "this is Johnny, Elvis, Jerry Lee and Carl influenced, 100%." Watson mixes honky-tonk country, early rock'n'roll and rockabilly styles seamlessly, and his songwriting has a similarly retro feel (right down to the short lengths: 14 songs in 30 minutes). As he acknowledges in the notes, he doesn't claim to reinvent the wheel. His band, the Texas Two (a riff on Cash's famed Tennessee Three), feature a drummer and stand-up bassist, so the sound is raw and sparse. All the tunes are Watson originals, but it's not hard to spot the influences. "Drive Drive Drive," for instance, is a close cousin to Johnny Cash's "Cry Cry Cry." Watson often wears his heart on his sleeve, sinking into banality with "her love completes me," on "Her Love." The previous track, "My Baby Makes Me Gravy," is a far better tribute. However, that's a rare misstep on an album lovers of this genre will surely enjoy. (Red House)