For Dale Watson, country music has always been a Janus-faced master, urging him between the extremes of dancing and despair, fun and fever, trucking and tenderness. He's the sharpest, swinging and least clichéd of the traditionalists who never stood a chance in the post-Merle Haggard era of mainstream country music. His greatest songs — "Whiskey or God," "Blessed or Damned" and "I Hate These Songs" — live up to Hag's finest. They're working class, even if his primary audience isn't, and the stories they tell, via rich language and a rippling baritone, turn back the clock to a time when the best honky-tonk Saturday night of your life never seemed to end.
What's Next: Watson is prolific but hasn't release an album since 2011's The Sun Sessions. Look for I Lie When I Drink in early 2013. —Roy Kasten