Dale Watson has been an independent country staple since his 1995 debut album Cheatin’ Heart Attack. Watson hit his musical stride in Austin, Texas, and for twenty years now, Watson has been releasing album after album of honky-tonk country music. While Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson and George Strait are country music pioneers reigning from Texas (and rightfully so), Dale Watson shouldn’t be ignored. His style of honky-tonk country and the Bakersfield sound is consistently excellent, and that is ever-present on his new album Call Me Insane.
The album kicks off with toe tapping “A Day at a Time.” This tune touches on the philosophy of tomorrow will be tomorrow so don’t worry about it, and do what you can to make it through today. This is a nice first song for the album, with instrumental breaks of the keyboard and guitars. “Bug Ya for Love” is a more mid-tempo country song about Watson pining for the affections of a woman. The determination to bug her for her love until she’s reached the final straw is a little off-putting to me. He isn’t tasteless in his attempts, by any means, but it just sort of comes off as a little much. Though with only one verse and a chorus repeated once more, the song leaves plenty of room for steel guitars and pianos to take the front seat in an extended solo.
“Burden of the Cross” is a heavy, heartbreaking ballad of a roadside memorial being removed to make room for a highway expansion. In 2000, Watson’s fiancée lost her life in a car accident, and I have to imagine that memory was a key influence for this song. Watson’s deep, heavy drawl along with the dark country production work well with the heartbreaking content of the song. “Everybody’s Somebody in Luchenbach, Texas” is a song dedicated to the Texas small town. Much like Waylon Jennings memorialized the town, Watson praises the town for it’s simplistic beauty and enjoys the company of a good loving woman. The Bakersfield sound is strong on this track.
Watson brings forth some excellent country heartbreak with “Crocodile Tears.” Their love has died and Watson is heartbroken, trying to convince himself that she feels the same way. However, he knows her tears and sorrow were simply just for show. Dale Watson then pays tribute to the late George Jones with “Jonesin’ For Jones.” This upbeat, honky-tonking song wishes to hear the Possum play, and while Jones can’t play the songs anymore (may he rest in peace), his music will never die. With the way the song is produced, it wouldn’t sound out-of-place on a George Jones album. It’s a fitting, excellent tribute to the country music legend.
“I’m Through Hurtin’” finds Watson gearing up for a night on the town. He’s tired of sulking after a breakup and wants to have some fun. There’s an excellent steel guitar ring on this song. The title track explores the heart of a man who holds out thinking relationships may end differently. If it’s crazy for him to have hope in his heart for a better outcome, than call him insane. This is a slow-moving song, but Watson’s vocals are great, and the inclusion of the horns in the production are wonderful.
“Heaven’s Gonna Have a Honky Tonk” is rocking, honky-tonk two stepper about what Dale Watson thinks heaven will be like. He sings in the first verse, “I read in the good book heaven is a place where the only thing we’ll have is all we’ll want. If he said it, then it’s true. Well I got news for you, heaven’s gonna have a honky-tonk.” The mix of religious references with the atmosphere of a honky-tonk bar makes for some great imagery. Watson brings forth some Spanish inspired country music with “Tienes Cabeza de Palo.” For all you who don’t speak Spanish, that roughly translates to “you’re hard headed” or “you’re stubborn.” His woman calls him that, and her accent of the romance language makes this insult sound sweet. More horns make their way into this production of the song, and they are quite welcome in this light-hearted, fun song.
Dale Watson explore love and relationships over the next couple songs. “I Owe It All to You” is a country ballad where Watson thanks his woman’s ex for basically being bad enough to end the relationship. Watson is thankful for the woman in his life, and is aware of why she’s his now. “Forever Valentine” is a ballad where Watson declares his love for her forever. It’s a heartfelt love song honoring a deep, committed love. “Hot Dang” compares falling in love with a sunny day. In this quick, 2 minute country jam, Watson is no longer walking around with a rain cloud over head and feels the joy that comes from the love of his woman.
The album ends with “Mamas Don’t Let Your Cowboys Grow Up to Be Babies.” The title, reworked from the country classic, calls for raising boys in a country cowboy way: letting them drink, eat chicken fried steak and gravy, and love wild women. This is the only song on the album Dale Watson did not write; it was written by Tony Joe White. However, this cover sounds right at home on Watson’s album, and is a fitting song to close Call Me Insane.
Overall, Call Me Insane, is another great offering from Dale Watson. While he may not get the same recognition as some of his outlaw and Bakersfield country peers, Watson continues to build on the foundation that Waylon, Willie, and Merle laid. At 14 songs, Call Me Insane gets a little lengthy, and there may be a song or two that could have been left of the cutting room floor. However, the length does not diminish the quality of country music here. Call Me Insane is an album true country fans will enjoy.