Album Review – Dale Watson and Ray Benson’s ‘Dale & Ray’

Digipak 4P 1CD

Long-time readers know one of the things I’ve constantly harped for more in country music is duo collaboration albums. So it warmed my heart to see two old legends get together and release a new album to kick off the New Year. I’m of course referring to Ameripolitan artist Dale Watson and Asleep At The Wheel frontman Ray Benson. The longtime friends and icons have been apparently plotting an album together for over 10 years, but it just kept getting put off. Well it hasn’t put off anymore, as they’ve released their new record Dale & Ray. And thank goodness they didn’t put it off anymore because this album is pure country goodness from start to finish.

The old friends open with the introductory “The Ballad of Dale and Ray.” They sing of what they love, like pot, drinking and especially great country music. I specifically love the part where they sing of loving Hank Williams accompanied by an empathic “senior.” The iconic duo pays respect to the late great Merle Haggard on “Feelin’ Haggard.” They sum up how most of us felt the moment we heard we lost Haggard last year. In addition they pay respect to his impact and mention several of his best songs. It’s quite fitting and a great song to boot. They pay tribute to another great in Buck Owens on “Cryin’ to Cryin’ Time Again.” It’s a reference of course to Owens’ classic “Crying Time.” They hit it out of the park on their cover of The Louvin Brothers’ “I Wish You Knew.” The catchy instrumentation is what made me love it on the very first listen, as the twangy fiddles and steel guitar make it instantly infectious. It isn’t the only cover, as they also tackle Willie Nelson’s “Write Your Own Songs.” The song famously takes a no-prisoners aim at the record labels and the executives behind them, as it basically says they’re all lazy assholes. This is definitely a message I can appreciate.

“Bus’ Breakdown” is the duo at their most fun, as this bluegrass ditty recalls a business deal they made where Benson sold Watson a broke down old bus. Watson and Benson offer a message of hope on “Forget About Tomorrow Today.” At one point they reference the divisive nature of the recent election, arguing politicians don’t care about us and it’s best just to focus on what’s in front of us today. “A Hangover Ago” is your classic country drinking song, complete with the thick steel guitar throughout. “Nobody’s Ever Down in Texas” has a decidedly Western Swing sound and of course pays obligatory homage to the duo’s home state. The album closes with the waltzing love song “Sittin’ and Thinkin’ About You.” The light and breezy production really gives the song a carefree feeling, at the same time harkening back to the golden days of country music.

Dale & Ray is an album I instantly grew to love. Both Dale Watson and Ray Benson sound as great as ever, showing no signs of slowing down anytime soon. It’s no surprise these two deliver such a thoroughly great country album, as it’s what they’ve been doing their whole careers. This is also further proof of why we need more collaboration albums like this one because when you put together two highly talented artists like Watson and Benson you get something you’ll certainly remember. Dale & Ray is a really fun album and something any country fan should love and appreciate.

Grade: 8/10

 

Recommend ? – Yes

Album Highlights: Write Your Own Songs, Forget About Tomorrow Today, The Ballad of Dale and Ray, Feelin’ Haggard, Bus’ Breakdown

Bad Songs: None

Wallpaper: None


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6 thoughts on “Album Review – Dale Watson and Ray Benson’s ‘Dale & Ray’

  1. Great album! 10/…

    …well…not so fast.

    It is a ok album. Is it a great album? No. Why?
    The album starts with “The Ballad Of Dale & Ray”. What a lazy track: “…Dale & Ray…Dale & Ray…Yes We Are Born This Way…” or “…I Like Merle Haggard…And I Like Johnny Cash”.
    Are you kidding me?
    Great instrumentation on “Feelin Haggard” but the lyrics kill the song. “…Feelin’ Haggard…” again & again, “…Swinging Doors…” or “…Tonight The Bottle Let Me Down…”. Name-dropping. Unnecessary & disappointing.
    “Cryin’ To Cryin’ Time Again” is a much better “tribute” song. “Bus Breakdown” is pure fun.
    Both guys sound great & have a lot of chemistry. Overall the project feels uninspired (7/10)

    New Album: Jeannie Seely – Written In Song / 14 Tracks / Cheyenne Records / Released (01/13)
    Jeannie Seely? She is old (over 30), a member of the Opry (uncool), her voice is…too country (since RaeLynn is the new standard for female country singers) & her songs are not deep (“Road Less Traveled” is deep).
    She recorded her own tracks on Written In Song. Songs recorded by Merle Haggard (“Life Of A Rodeo Cowboy”) or Willie Nelson (“Senses”) back in the day.
    Jeannie Seely knocks it out of the park. Timeless songs. A (classic) country instrumentation & production.
    My highlights: “He’s All I Need”, “Senses” (with Connie Smith & Marty Stuart), “You Don’t Need Me”, “Leavin’ & Sayin’ Goodbye” & “We’re Still Hangin’ In There Ain’t We Jessi” (with Jan Howard & Jessi Colter). A perfect 10!

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    • Normally I would call out this name-dropping too, but I see it as fine coming from these two. They aren’t up and comers blatantly pandering, they’re two friends of the artists they mention in their songs and in the case of Hag paying respect to a fallen pal. This isn’t Florida Georgia Line rhyming Haggard with Jagger, so I think it’s silly to get in a fuss over this aspect. But I understand where you’re coming from.

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      • Both songs in the middle of the album or close to the end might be the better decision. To start an album with a song like “The Ballad…” with such laughable lyrics is lazy. Dale Watson & Ray Benson are better than this.

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  2. I think both men are showing their ages as vocalists, and that prevents this from being something really great.

    However, I’d argue that they do bring an energy to their writing, often times swapping jokes or funny one-liners. Plus I’d argue that the front half of the album is better than many will give it credit for. I wasn’t wild about the final song, “Sittin’ And Thinkin’ About You” but other than that as well as the vocal nitpicks, I honestly enjoyed this. It’s not a main album from either men and it probably won’t make my year end list, but it is a fun side project, and that was their goal anyway.

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  3. I wasn’t in love with the first song, but as I got into the meat of the album, I heard more of what I expected from these two. “Cryin’ To Cryin’ Time Again” is one of the standouts to me.

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