Having built up a loyal UK following over the years, most of the audience packing the backroom of The Bullingdon in Oxford were of the converted variety and they were not disappointed with a stream of old favourites interwoven with selected tracks from the brand new EL RANCHO AZUL album. The strength of song delivery mixed with enlightening tales aided by a recurring dry comic routine saw Dale on top form with the latest line up of the Lone Stars now settled and comprising of Chris Crepps on bass, Don Pawlak on pedal steel and Mike Bernal keeping time with his percussion skills. The high quality four-piece combo rattled through a set that evolved during the evening assisted by audience requests and a couple of covers from Watson’s heroes, one being Ray Price, ironically a hero of Blake Shelton as well.
Having recently reviewed the new album, the tracks were familiar and Dale chose a good cross section to preview it during the planned part of the set. ‘Thanks to Tequila’, ‘I Lie When I Drink’ and ‘I Drink to Remember’ adequately represented the alcohol segment of the record. The more refined songs from the album included the Texas Two Sep dance number ‘Quick Quick Slow Slow’, complete with full instructions, and the waltz-like sentimental tune ‘Daughter’s Wedding Song’. Listening to these songs live definitely re-enforced the positive conclusions drawn from reviewing the album.As you can imagine, a two hour set of three minute songs develops into a lengthy list and without recounting it in its entirety, there were a number of notable highlights. ‘Country My Ass’, not surprisingly getting audience participation was one of the concluding numbers. The requested western swing tune ‘Cowboy Lloyd Cross’ showcased the band’s potential for versatility, while other personal favourites on the evening were ‘South of Round Rock Texas’, ‘Whiskey and God’, ‘Honky Tonk Wizard of Oz’ and one of your trademark Dale Watson trucking songs ‘Truck Stop in La Grange’.
Dale gave the crowd a choice of Merle Haggard songs and picked up on a suggestion to play ‘Working Man Blues’ over ‘Mamma’s Hungry Eyes’. For the Ray Price number ‘Crazy Arms’, Dale invited the lead singer of the Doggone Honkabilly Band to deliver lead vocals as an appreciation for putting together the following night’s London show .A fairly unusual feature for a UK show was the level of background noise from a section of the venue’s Friday night customers but this is just par for the course for Dale and his band on their journey around the honky tonks of Texas. In fact so engrossed and intense was bassist Chris Crepps in his performance that on the final number his instrument virtually collapsed with double bass strings pinging everywhere. Thus a cryptic signal to close the show and leave those present fully satisfied from being immersed in the Dale Watson experience.