Aaron Watson

This record should be bad. A guy with no deal doing it independently, we’re inundated with the work of wannabes, we trust labels, radio and the press to weed out quality.

But what if they don’t?

The first criterion for music is listenability. I don’t care about theories, the lyrics, first and foremost it must be ear-pleasing. And I dropped the needle on Aaron Watson’s “Vaquero” and I didn’t want to take it off, and each track was equally rewarding, how can this be?

Remember when you used to buy an album and break the shrinkwrap and sit down in front of the turntable and marinate in the music? Walk around the house and wait for it to seep into your brain? When there were many fewer acts and recording was expensive and you bought an album and you listened to it?

Today it’s different. Everything’s available at our fingertips and we’re beaten into submission by the press and social media but the end result is always so unsatisfying and we end up discarding it all, going back to the oldies.

I’m waiting for the music business to have some self-respect, see itself as a cultural institution as well as a moneymaker. Give credit to the filmmakers honored last night at the Oscars, they were shooting for the stars, whereas too much in music is lowest common denominator.

And then there was Jimmy Kimmel. Terrible on paper, a sheer wonder in action. Because he had no airs, he was an everyman shooting straight and it worked. We used to have people in music like that, who let the work speak for itself. Come on, Jimmy’s jokes hit the target again and again whereas those much more famous than him, known for their comedy work, failed in the gig. Maybe this is the new paradigm, we’re all in it together, that anybody who holds themselves up as a star is a target. And we’ve got so many of these people, more famous for the penumbra than the work, which makes this Aaron Watson album such a revelation.

I’d never heard of it. Nor him. But I got the following e-mail from Marshall Altman…

“Hey Bob,

I’m wondering if you’ve heard this new Aaron Watson album yet. There’s a story here about independent country artists that I think you might find interesting.

Check the album out here:

Aaron Watson – Texas Lullaby

Been enjoying the letter more and more over the last few months. Thanks for telling the truth.


Marshall Altman

Ps – Full disclosure, I’m the producer on this record, but the story started long before I got involved…”

And I clicked and started playing it before I read the part where he kissed my butt, just to check it out and dismiss it, but “Texas Lullaby,” the opening track, started to lope along and I couldn’t help but saddle up and go along for the ride.

He was just eighteen
Full of fire and gasoline


Remember when music reflected our humanity back upon us?

And Watson doesn’t have the best voice, but the changes resonate and the chorus was catchy and if it’s so simple how come seemingly no one else can do it?

Well, we’ve got Chris Stapleton, who’s selling a bit more gravitas, but he went from zero to hero overnight, that’s how hungry we are for soul-fulfilling music.

And then I started to do some research. Turns out Watson’s last indie album, entered the country chart at number one, and that this new one, “Vaquero,” might exceed the sales and streams of Little Big Town’s new one and enter at number one too.

Which means Aaron Watson’s got fans. And they’re supporting him.

Which gives me hope.

But not as much as listening to this album, which has no clunkers, none I’ve found yet. Too much of today’s new music I just want to take off. It’s repetitive and shoots too low.

And I’m not saying Watson is an intellectual, but he is a beacon, showing us you can reject the system and do it your own way and win.

Then again, he’s been doing it for nearly two decades, his initial LP came out in 1999, and that’s far too long in a world where we want it all and we want it now.

Maybe you can get better with age. Maybe you don’t have to do what’s au courant. Maybe you can just get behind the wheel and drive into the wilderness and people will follow you.

Don’t expect Bob Dylan.

If you hate Nashville and Texas don’t even bother to tune in.

If you make music and wonder why it’s not you having the success, move right along, stay on your sour grapes highway.

But if you’re someone who went to the rodeo with the Byrds, ate burritos with Gram Parsons, liked the SoCal cowboys and are looking for something new to listen to while you do the laundry, drive your car, when you’re unworried about your image and are just going on with your life, you might find that you want Aaron Watson riding shotgun.

He isn’t reinventing the wheel, but at least he acknowledges the wheel still exists, and that’s a rare thing in a world where real instruments are anathema, vocals are tuned and songs are something written by committee.

Check it out.

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