For years, the Texas-based country music traditionalist Dale Watson and his ace backing band, the Lonestars, have hosted Chicken Shit Bingo Sunday performances - shows that get their name from a game of chance featuring a caged hen, chicken feed and a grid with numbers. At these legendary local shows, patrons buy tickets for spaces on the grid, and the recently-fed chicken determines the winner when nature calls.
Chicken Shit Bingo Sundays got their start at Ginny's Little Longhorn Saloon and Watson has continued the tradition at Cboys in Austin and the Big T Roadhouse in St. Hedwig, Texas. The latter is where this live recording was made on March 20, 2016.
What makes this live album truly unique is that it captures the Chicken Shit Bingo Sunday experience in its entirety. This includes all of the stage announcements, between-song banter, live musical ads and interactions with the bingo winners that help make these shows some of Watson's most popular outings.
Playing the dual role of master of ceremony and game show host, Watson steals the show with his charming personality and musical jingles. Whether promoting Lone Star Beer ("The Best Beer In The World"), pitching free hot dogs ("The Best Dogs In The Land"), explaining where to buy your bingo tickets ("Back Yonder") or wheeling and dealing with a winner ("Winner #1"), Watson has the entertaining and amusing routine down.
Ironically, the attributes that make this live set unique are also the very things that prevent this from being a stellar live album from a musical standpoint. The issue is that by delivering on the promise of presenting "a day in the life of" the infamous Chicken Shit Bingo Sunday shows, enough filler is added to prevent this from being a live album you turn to when you want to just listen to Watson and the Lonestars play.
Regardless, the songs included here are all top notch. Classic Watson barroom therapy songs "Sit And Drink And Cry" and "I Lie When I Drink" are both pitch-perfect in this honky tonk setting. So too are trucking tunes like the chugging and gritty "I Gotta Drive" and the high-octane "Birmingham Break Down."
Choice covers of "The Fugitive" and "The Bottle Let Me Down," both my Merle Haggard, and the funky swamp rock of Jerry Reed's classic "Amos Moses" fit nicely in the mix alongside a few originals recorded for the first time. The swinging "Lubbock Boy," a song dedicated to Lonestar drummer Mike Bernal and his wife, features some highly-stylized lead vocals and "Smile," a pretty little number Watson penned for his mother, provides one of the few slower moments.