Dale Watson’s Roadhouse Sundays
On any given Sunday, if you’re looking for Dale Watson, you won’t find him in church. If he’s not out on the road demonstrating his Ameripolitan music, most likely he’ll be down the road a smidgen from his North Austin neighborhood at Big T’s, the bar he owns in San Antonio.
He advertises cold beer, free hot dawgs, and a friendly atmosphere, but the main attraction, other than himself, is his “World famous chicken shit bingo. For a paltry two dollars, you might win over a hundred dollars if the same number you draw out of the bag is the same number the chicken picks,” Watson tells the crowd on the opening track. “Only one way a chicken can pick a number. If you’ve not seen it, it’s not very creative but its very effective,” the singer says. The chicken’s part is to strut across a numbered board underneath her cage and drop her mark on the number at her will.
That’s about all you need to know about that. Except this is a live album, with his between-song patter left in, with Watson emceeing the chicken shit bingo games, playing a version of the old Monty Hall game show Let’s Make A Deal with lucky winner number one, asking her if she wants to trade her 114 dollar winnings for the money he has in any of his pants pockets. He tells her the most he’s ever had in his pockets was 4 thousand bucks, and the least is a dollar and 29 cents in change. This one has a happy ending- the winner comes out with $140 bucks from Watson’s hip pocket. Then its time for a Lone Star beer commercial, narrated and sung by Watson, for “The best beer in the world, the national beer of Texas, should be national beer of the nation, the only beer that whitens your teeth.”
All this hoo-rah might be irritating in somebody’s else’ hands, but with Watson in charge, it just makes you want to be right there in the middle of it, soaking up his Merle-flavored vocals and impeccable pickin’. “We gonna do sum daaancin’,” Watson says, introducing “Sit And Drink and Cry,’” sounding like Haggard fronting Buck Owens’ band the Buckaroos. Later in the set, his cover of “The Fugitive” is so close to Haggard’s original that its eerie, and magnificent.
But Watson’s no one trick pony. Jerry Reed’s mush-mouthed swamp anthem “Amos Moses” gets a rollicking makeover with Watson chicken-pickin’ the crap out of it, enunciating Reed’s gator-chomped lyrics clearly for the first time since its inception.
Watson slips easily into Western Swing on his original “Deep In the Heart Of Texas,” complete with some Bob Wills trademark “aaahs” and plenty of attitude: “Telling the world I say Awww/ I drink Lone Star too/ if they don’t like it/ they can kiss my Texas….tattoo.”
“I wrote this about my mama’s smile,” Watson says introducing “Smile,” sounding like vintage Johnny Cash in tone and timbre.
Watson is surrounded by a stellar band, singling out Don Don Pawlak on pedal steel for special attention with a tribute to his talents, “The Don Don Boogie,” written by Watson. “He’s so good, he’s so fine we named him twice,” Watson sings before calling out chords for Don Don to weep and slide along spectacularly on.
“Since George ain’t here, let’s do this one for George,” Watson says introducing Haggard’s ’66 classic “The Bottle Let Me Down,” delivering it with a mind boggling blend of Haggard and Jones’ vocal styles.
No Watson set would be complete without “I Lie When I Drink,” the tune Watson wrote during a show when he lets fans call out a song title, a key and what type of song to make it, and he completes ’em on the spot. Once again it blends Jones and Haggard’s best traits for an instant country classic.
Some folks may try to tell you there’s better ways to spend a Sunday than playing chicken with Dale Watson,but from the evdence recorded here, that argument won’t wash. Somebody say amen, and pass the Lone Star.