Country Jukebox Jury LPs: Aaron Watson and Creed Fisher

Aaron Watson – Unwanted Man

The Underdog who took on Music Row on his own terms and won, Aaron Watson puts out a record every 18 months or so that gives the people what they want: Texan country in the tradition of George Strait and his hero Guy Clark. His music is released independently on the Adub label, and the title track was written with Bob DePiero: ‘for once in my life’ he feels wanted and celebrates with a fine guitar solo in the middle of the song.

The rest of the album comprises 10 solo compositions which run through familiar themes from his career. As ever, we’ve got some love songs dedicated to Aaron’s wife and business partner: he calls her ‘my world, my queen, my girl, my everything’ on When I See You; his ‘favour colour on you is when there’s nothing on you’ on the track of that name; he sets the Texas number one hit Crash Landing to a George Harrisonian guitar line and hooky chorus. One In A Million Girl is, by Aaron’s standards, filler, but it’s no surprise that four of the 11 tracks are centred on the woman with whom Aaron was locked down with, and country needs fidelity songs.

Dancing Around The Truth, conversely, is a dance ‘for old time’s sake’ that precedes a break-up, while The Old Man Said is yet another one of those country songs about an old fella passing on wisdom to a youngster. I smirked when Aaron received a golden watch with the words ‘it’s borrowed time’. The once ‘proud and loud’ character Aaron plays in What’s Left Of Me, who can ‘hardly recognise himself’, can take plenty of this advice on board.

We also get two Aaron Doing His Job songs. He gets into a fight because it would make a Heck of a Song, on which Aaron says he is ‘addicted to the dream’ and is ‘following my heart’ through highways and cafes. He is also ‘a fan of the fan in the cheap seats’ on Cheap Seats, where he namechecks Hank Williams and Waylon Jennings while ‘driving with my band and singing songs that I believe’. The second verse is a great description of a musician’s early days playing to tiny crowds. I wonder if that set of fans are still into Aaron’s music all these years later.

Unwanted Man ends with Once In A Life which reminds me of Aaron’s track To Be The Moon in its nods to classic songwriting. I would love to hear Aaron tackle The Great American Songbook, because some of his tunes reach for Gershwin or Rogers & Hart. ‘I found your heart was made for mine’ is an excellent line, which is followed by a rhyme of ‘melancholy/love has done to me’. What, he asks, ‘if once in a life don’t happen twice’. He handles the key changes well, and there are four great bars of fiddle in the middle of the song as well as an extended outro.

All in all, more of the excellent same from our favourite indie-minded cowboy Aaron Watson.

Creed Fisher – Rebel in the South

In the first 30 seconds of Creed’s latest set of credos, we get trucks, beer and sunshine…‘cuz I’m country’. Creed, who lives in New Braunfels, Texas, quotes Hank Williams Jr and sings of pines, mama, the Bible, fishing, boots and that’s country bingo. His audience will lap it up much as they have supported him these past few years through his many and regular albums.

The song Nashville begins with the sound of piano, evoking a typical contemporary country radio smash, but the lyric asks whether Merle Haggard would have been the musician he was without his time in jail and his difficult youth. ‘Bright lights of Nashville ain’t what I want…Rest in peace Music Row’, Creed concludes, instead heading to ‘a hole in the wall’ with whiskey and a jukebox full of George Jones records.

The title track shows similar sentiments with even coarser language. Creed spits out the words ‘bro-country’ and is sad at how Waylon and the aforementioned George wouldn’t fit the current metier. Ditto Rebel in the South in Me, which seems like one scoop of ice cream too many on this album. As for the track where he is Texas as F—, it sounds exactly like you think it does and reflects the lyric in which Creed argues that true country songs are ‘from the heart’.

If you want tunes to soundtrack a throwdown, try the honkytonker A Bar Near San Antone (‘I’m drunk down here in Texas’), Down & Dirty (which quotes the title of a well-known Garth Brooks song) and Earplugs and Beer. That track is a message for the long-suffering husbands out there in that same bar, where we get some mandolin, steel guitar and harmonica which play alongside Creed’s croon.

For something more tender to play at bedtime or, in Wasted Life’s case, to literally come down from a heavy night out, go for I’ll Keep Drinkin’ (‘till your memory’s out of sight’) or I Still Miss You. The latter features the old-style snare-rim backbeat common in country from the urban cowboy era. It begins ‘another empty bottle, another empty bed’ and both are the epitome of Texan music thanks to Creed’s role as a wretched, heartbroken man.

Happily, there are three songs of fidelity and family pride. The wedding song Till I Found You gives us Creed the Happy Husband, while Happy Father shows his pride on Daughter of an Outlaw and River Girl: the former is also a way for Creed to boast of his own outlaw credentials (‘daddy’s blood runs through her veins’), while on the latter, days blasting Johnny Cash in the truck ‘just seem so long ago’. Creed’s fans will be cranking up his own music and passing on the lessons of the outlaw and the rebel to their own daughters.

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