ToC Critic’s Pick: Aaron Watson, ‘Vaquero’
Aaron Watson‘s Vaquero album is a rich collection of cowboy poetry. Every verse touches two or more senses. The best songs clip the soul.
Sonically, Watson stays true to who he is. Early on, “These Old Boots Have Roots” exemplifies his brand, but white-hot, married guy love songs like “Take You Home Tonight” and “Be My Girl” are more memorable. They are, in many ways, an introduction to the Texan’s values. They set up an arresting middle and then a very personal close.
There is no justice in country music if “They Don’t Make Em Like They Used To” isn’t a hit somewhere in 2017. Watson’s longing for the past but hope for the future underscores the modern American experience. Lyrically, he’s spitting country truth across a boom-chicka, railroad beat. Fiddle cries out like a train’s whistle as the song slows to its final stop: a blitzing final verse that asks for love instead of criticism and then — at the very last moment — twists to become something quite inspiring.
This is not his only statement song. The centerpieces of Vaquero are an instrumental called “Mariano’s Dream” and “Clear Isabel,” the story of Mexican immigrants. There’s no mistaking what side of the debate the singer comes down on — his character in the song marries the immigrant’s daughter Isabel — but Watson doesn’t provoke intentionally, although the timing wasn’t coincidence. Over and over again, he proves to be a more thoughtful songwriter than most in Nashville. He understands he’s not just a singer but a voice.
Two personal songs to his children help close an emotional, demanding record. Vaquero isn’t background music, but it’s not an artsy album that won’t serve his stage show either. Great country music is alive and well in Texas.
Key Tracks: “Take You Home Tonight,” “They Don’t Make Em Like They Used To,” “Clear Isabel,” “The Arrow”
Did You Know?: “Diamonds & Daughters” is aimed at his daughter Jolee Kate. “The Arrow” is aimed at his sons. Songs like “Be My Girl” are inspired by his wife of nearly 15 years.
Watch Aaron Watson, Unfiltered
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