On We've Got a Pulse, Gene Watson affirms "Just as long as I'm alive, there will be songs about grievin' and cheatin' and drinkin' and lovin' a good woman right" with such gusto and assuredness that even the most cynical music critic might believe that traditional country music is not on its deathbed. And there are undeniably some younger country artists who understand and appreciate their roots, artists like Brad Paisley, who took Watson out on tour to open for him, and Trace Adkins who lends his pipes to the aforementioned We've Got a Pulse.
But what about the younger fans? Maybe the reason they don't know about Watson (and other old masters put out to pasture) is because of grizzled reviewers calling their music traditional and classic. Instead let's call it what it really is - cutting-edge; dangerous. You won't hear Rascal Flatts calling love toxic like Watson does on Still They Call Me Love ("I'm as bad as whiskey / Strong as any drug / Poison when you kiss me"). Nor are you likely to hear Carrie Underwood extolling the pleasures of infidelity (Use Me Again).
And you're not going to hear anything as emotionally devastating as Staying Together on your local radio station. Not until we realize that a singer can have a gray beard, a 35-year career with 50 charting singles and still have something to say to all music lovers, geezers as well as whippersnappers and everyone in between.
And that's the truth.