On People I’ve Known, Places I’ve Been, Dale Watson writes a song about the crease in somebody’s cowboy hat, for gosh sakes, and not only gets away with it, but turns in a memorable honky-tonker with a heartfelt twist at the end. On this disc, his fifth, Watson wrote all the songs, plays all the electric leads, sings all the vocals, and produced the sessions, he’s also distributing it himself, via internet and live shows. It’s a satisfying warmup to his upcoming Sire/Warner debut.
This time out, Watson and his Austin-based band — Ricky Davis on steel and Hawaiian guitar, Scott Mathews on drums, Billy “Dee” Donahue on bass, Dave Biller on acoustic and Jason Roberts on fiddle — rip through a breezy set of catchy tunes that continue Watson’s evolution while keeping his roots firmly in the fertile soil of his influences (Merle, Cash, et al.). No broken hearts this time; these songs keep firmly to the title. “Louie’s Lee’s Liquor Lounge” is about a Minneapolis bar’s name, “Charlie Our Shoeshine Man” is about a Continental Club fixture, “Luther” is an homage to Cash guitarist Luther Perkins, and “That Man In The Lloyd Cross Crease” is about the hatmaker himself. Other songs highlight impressions from Watson’s European and Australian travels.
Although Watson makes it seem easy, none of the songs sound like toss-offs, half-bakes or album filler. Clearly, the guy can write a song about anything.