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From the Cradle to the Grave 

Dale Watson

Hyena; Release date: April 24, 2007

The Deal: Johnny Cash-influenced musings from a guy whose country is so real he won't call his music by that name.

The Good: With the exception of Merle Haggard, there's not a better country artist performing today than Dale Watson. Thing is, Watson's become so disgusted with country that Ameripolitan is how he wants to be described from now on, "original music with a roots influence." But on this one, the roots mostly spread out from under Johnny Cash's feet. The record was recorded in a Tennessee mountain cabin once owned by Cash (currently owned by Johnny Knoxville), and his spirit saturates the music. But Watson's no impersonator. Even though cuts like "From The Cradle To The Grave" and "Runaway Train" call up Cash and there's a Marty Robbins influence on "Justice For All," Watson remains his own man. A singer with a formidable range (check out "Tequila" and "Teardrops" from '06's Whiskey Or God) Watson's voice is reminiscent of Haggard's -- mellow, but with the authority and conviction of a country preacher. "Revenge is mine, sayeth the Lord, well, he's one lucky guy," Watson proclaims on "Justice for All," about a parent who faces the man who killed his child. "I'd gun that bastard down with a smile on my face."

The Bad: As good a studio record as this is, it's just a small taste of what you get in a live show. More live stuff please.

The Verdict: Get all the Dale Watson you can find. Then go see him live and join the ranks of worshippers who accept no substitute.

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