Dale Watson, Max Stalling

Rife with character-heavy narratives and big-sky imagery, country music has always been an ideal soundtrack for driving. We're reminded of that on Dale Watson's second album of highway songs, following 1998's The Truckin' Sessions.

With lots of fiddle and a clear love of the road, Austin's inveterate Watson elevates the 14 tunes on his latest release, The Truckin' Sessions: Volume Two, beyond their cheesy, one-note potential, making them feel hard-won and authentic. "Hero" opens with rain and presents the ever-cautious trucker as a tear-jerking martyr; it's a stretch, but the song plucks the heartstrings with a strong, compact refrain. The likeminded "Let This Trucker Go" is a message from a freshly departed soul to the woman who survived him, whereas "Truckin' Man" is all corner-of-the-mouth growl, the goofy "Truckin' Queen" tackles a cross-dressing driver and "Texas Boogie" caps the collection with a snap. Even the mostly instrumental "10-4" comes off better than on paper. Watson's weighty voice is clarion clear, and his longtime band is sharp and diverse throughout. Nowhere near as gritty as some alt-country, yet free of the arena-rock earmarks of the mainstream stuff, Volume Two won't convert anyone who doesn't already like country, but, like Watson's stage show, it's a pleasantly bumpy ride for those of us who do.

Dallas country artist Max Stalling opens.


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