Dale & Ray by Dale Watson and Ray Benson on Ameripolitan/Home Records

Reviewed by Harry Kaplan

This is perfect music. A bit of nostalgia, but also current. This type of country music never went out of style, contrary to popular belief. It may have retracted some, but honky tonk has never stopped being made. To call this revival music is inaccurate because it has never ceased to be created. So in that fine tradition, here is Dale & Ray, from two country music icons, Dale Watson and Ray Benson. When I listen to this album, one thing comes to mind, chemistry. It is like these guys are brothers. They are so musically in tune with each other, it is uncanny. I get the feeling that they could finish each other’s guitar riffs.

Their songs are sung so well in tandem that is is hard to imagine it is two people. Dale & Ray is a collection of ten honky tonk ditties that are so catchy, there should be a vaccine. The songs run the gamut from happy, sad, to funny. Songs like the Ballad Of Dale And Ray (Track 1) and Bus’ Breakdown (Track 4) are pure fun. They are light hearted songs that leave you with no option but to smile and sing along. The Ballad Of Dale And Ray is a lovely song about both guys, their habits, likes, and dislikes. Bus Breakdown is a funny song about how ALL tour busses breakdown. Again, it makes me smile from ear to ear. They have the perfect words to joke with each other in a very loving way. Only family can get away with this.

There is no shortage of sad songs on this collection either. Feeling Haggard (Track 2) is a song about the passing of the great Merle Haggard. Listening to this gets me a little choked up. How can it not? These guys know how to evoke every emotion out of the listener. This is an absolutely, beautiful and melancholy song. The other sad song of note is Cryin’ To Cryin’ Time Again (Track 6). It is a song about another country deity, Buck Owens. This is a song about how when they are feeling blue, the only songs they want to hear are Buck Owens’ songs. I understand that completely and have been there myself. Both of these songs are not only great, but they pay tribute to two of the greatest performers ever.

So no country music album is truly complete without a drinking song. A Hangover Ago (Track 8) takes care of that. This song is about when most of us quit drinking after a hangover and say those profound words, “I will never drink again.” Well those words are uttered the next time we can’t lift our head. A funny song, but tells a very real and profound story. The other type of song that is mandatory is a heartache song. Well Dale & Ray got that area covered as well. Sittin’ And Thinkin’ About You (Track 10) is about thinking about someone and wondering if they feel the same way. It is a universal theme and Dale & Ray so eloquently put this topic to words and music perfectly.

If you like traditional country music and honky tonk, you have to own this release. It is mandatory, there really is no choice in the matter. It will make you feel good.

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