Black Music Matters Festival

Gene Watson

Real. Country. Music. – 2016 (Fourteen Carat Mind)

Reviewed by Robert Wooldridge

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CDs by Gene Watson

Gene Watson's "Real. Country. Music." serves as a companion piece to his 2014 release "My Heroes Have Always Been Country" as he again pays tribute to the songs and songwriters that have influenced him in his more than 40-year career. Watson again focuses on relatively obscure material, including covers of "Ashes to Ashes" from his own 1987 album "Honky Tonk Crazy" and the title track from 1981's "Old Loves Never Die."

Larry Gatlin is clearly a strong influence as Watson covers "Help Me" and "Bitter They Are, Harder They Fall," a pair of Gatlin compositions also covered by Elvis Presley in the '70s. Another favorite appears to be Nat Stuckey, the one artist covered on both volumes as Watson delivers an effective rendition of "All My Tomorrows."

A nicely orchestrated version of Kris Kristofferson's "Enough For You" and a countrified take on the Nat King Cole classic "Ramblin' Rose" also are highlights. Perhaps the strongest cut is the uptempo "I'll Find It Where I Can" most notably recorded in the past by Jerry Lee Lewis and Waylon Jennings.

Watson has much of the same supporting cast as on 'My Heroes..." with producer Dirk Johnson (piano, keyboards), Gregg Galbraith and James Mitchell (electric guitar), Mike Johnson and Sonny Garrish (steel guitar), Aubrey Haynie and Gail Rudisil-Johnson (fiddles, strings) and David Smith (bass), with Lonnie Wilson and Eddy Anderson (drums) coming on board for this project. With Watson's strong vocals and solid song selections, this is an entertaining collection.