Dale Watson 

Sometimes the best way to move forward is to take a step back. Dale Watson's sound may influenced by western swing, but don't call it retro — it's more like Watson is rescuing Nashville from its own worst impulses by returning to a time before country music lost its way. Unlike trucker-cap-sporting hipsters, Watson has a reverence that abhors irony, as evidenced by his latest release, The Truckin' Sessions, Vol. 2. His deep baritone empathetically channels the wanderlust ("I Got to Drive"), anguish ("No Help Wanted") and lonely resignation ("Hero") of contemporary America through the voices of blue-collar everymen. Fiddle and pedal steel haunt his ballads like trailing storm clouds, but a hotfoot two-step twang keeps Watson's beers from getting too teary. Watson may be torn between Whiskey or God, as his 2006 album title suggests, but he certainly knows how to make old-fashioned country music sound timeless.

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