Album Review – Dale Watson and Ray Benson’s ‘Dale & Ray’

Digipak 4P 1CD

Long-time readers know one of the things I’ve constantly harped for more in country music is duo collaboration albums. So it warmed my heart to see two old legends get together and release a new album to kick off the New Year. I’m of course referring to Ameripolitan artist Dale Watson and Asleep At The Wheel frontman Ray Benson. The longtime friends and icons have been apparently plotting an album together for over 10 years, but it just kept getting put off. Well it hasn’t put off anymore, as they’ve released their new record Dale & Ray. And thank goodness they didn’t put it off anymore because this album is pure country goodness from start to finish.

The old friends open with the introductory “The Ballad of Dale and Ray.” They sing of what they love, like pot, drinking and especially great country music. I specifically love the part where they sing of loving Hank Williams accompanied by an empathic “senior.” The iconic duo pays respect to the late great Merle Haggard on “Feelin’ Haggard.” They sum up how most of us felt the moment we heard we lost Haggard last year. In addition they pay respect to his impact and mention several of his best songs. It’s quite fitting and a great song to boot. They pay tribute to another great in Buck Owens on “Cryin’ to Cryin’ Time Again.” It’s a reference of course to Owens’ classic “Crying Time.” They hit it out of the park on their cover of The Louvin Brothers’ “I Wish You Knew.” The catchy instrumentation is what made me love it on the very first listen, as the twangy fiddles and steel guitar make it instantly infectious. It isn’t the only cover, as they also tackle Willie Nelson’s “Write Your Own Songs.” The song famously takes a no-prisoners aim at the record labels and the executives behind them, as it basically says they’re all lazy assholes. This is definitely a message I can appreciate.

“Bus’ Breakdown” is the duo at their most fun, as this bluegrass ditty recalls a business deal they made where Benson sold Watson a broke down old bus. Watson and Benson offer a message of hope on “Forget About Tomorrow Today.” At one point they reference the divisive nature of the recent election, arguing politicians don’t care about us and it’s best just to focus on what’s in front of us today. “A Hangover Ago” is your classic country drinking song, complete with the thick steel guitar throughout. “Nobody’s Ever Down in Texas” has a decidedly Western Swing sound and of course pays obligatory homage to the duo’s home state. The album closes with the waltzing love song “Sittin’ and Thinkin’ About You.” The light and breezy production really gives the song a carefree feeling, at the same time harkening back to the golden days of country music.

Dale & Ray is an album I instantly grew to love. Both Dale Watson and Ray Benson sound as great as ever, showing no signs of slowing down anytime soon. It’s no surprise these two deliver such a thoroughly great country album, as it’s what they’ve been doing their whole careers. This is also further proof of why we need more collaboration albums like this one because when you put together two highly talented artists like Watson and Benson you get something you’ll certainly remember. Dale & Ray is a really fun album and something any country fan should love and appreciate.

Grade: 8/10

 

Recommend ? – Yes

Album Highlights: Write Your Own Songs, Forget About Tomorrow Today, The Ballad of Dale and Ray, Feelin’ Haggard, Bus’ Breakdown

Bad Songs: None

Wallpaper: None


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Billboard Top 25 Country Albums This Week [April 11]

Luke-Bryan-Spring-Break-Checkin-Out

  1. Luke Bryan – Spring Break…Checkin’ Out (Grade: 2.5/10)
  2. Sam Hunt – Montevallo  (Grade: 1/10)
  3. Various Artists – Nashville: On The Record, Volume 2
  4. Various Artists – 2015 Academy of Country Music Awards ZinePak
  5. Jason Aldean – Old Boots, New Dirt (Grade: 3/10)
  6. Florida Georgia Line – Anything Goes (Grade: 0/10)
  7. Little Big Town – Pain Killer (Grade: 3/10)
  8. Eric Church – The Outsiders
  9. Chase Rice – Ignite the Night (Grade: 2/10)
  10. Carrie Underwood – Greatest Hits: Decade #1
  11. Luke Bryan – Crash My Party
  12. Miranda Lambert – Platinum
  13. Cole Swindell – Cole Swindell
  14. Garth Brooks – Man Against Machine (Grade: 7.5/10)
  15. Zac Brown Band – Greatest Hits So Far…
  16. Canaan Smith – Canaan Smith EP
  17. Kenny Chesney – The Big Revival (Grade: 4.5/10)
  18. Brantley Gilbert – Just As I Am (Grade: 5/10)
  19. Blake Shelton – Bringing Back The Sunshine (Grade: 4/10)
  20. Shania Twain – Shania: Still The One: Live From Las Vegas
  21. Lee Brice – I Don’t Dance (Grade: 5/10)
  22. Asleep At The Wheel – Still The King: Celebrating The Music of Bob Wills And His Texas Playboys 
  23. Luke Bryan – Spring Break…The Set List: The Complete Spring Break Collection ZinePak
  24. Dierks Bentley – Riser
  25. Striking Matches – Nothing But The Silence (Grade: 8/10)

Notes:

  • Luke Bryan and Sam Hunt stay at #1 and #2 respectively again this week.
  • Four new albums break into the chart. Two of them are just collaboration albums of several songs. One is for the television show Nashville and the other is songs nominated for the 2015 ACM Awards.
  • Canaan Smith’s self-titled EP debuts at #16.
  • Striking Matches round out the top 25 with their debut album Nothing But The Silence.
  • Little Big Town’s Pain Killer was the biggest gainer this week, moving up eight spots from #15 to #7. I think you know why.
  • The biggest losers this week were Still The King: Celebrating The Music of Bob Wills And His Texas Playboys and Luke Bryan’s Spring Break…The Set List: The Complete Spring Break Collection ZinePak, which each fell 11 spots on the chart.
  • Shania Twain and her album Shania: Still The One: Live From Las Vegas fell ten spots to #20 on the chart.

 

Source: Billboard

Billboard Top 25 Country Albums This Week [April 4]

Luke-Bryan-Spring-Break-Checkin-Out

  1. Luke Bryan – Spring Break…Checkin’ Out (Grade: 2.5/10)
  2. Sam Hunt – Montevallo  (Grade: 1/10)
  3. Jason Aldean – Old Boots, New Dirt (Grade: 3/10)
  4. Florida Georgia Line – Anything Goes (Grade: 0/10)
  5. Chase Rice – Ignite the Night (Grade: 2/10)
  6. Eric Church – The Outsiders
  7. Carrie Underwood – Greatest Hits: Decade #1
  8. Miranda Lambert – Platinum
  9. Luke Bryan – Crash My Party
  10. Shania Twain – Shania: Still The One: Live From Las Vegas
  11. Asleep At The Wheel – Still The King: Celebrating The Music of Bob Wills And His Texas Playboys 
  12. Luke Bryan – Spring Break…The Set List: The Complete Spring Break Collection ZinePak
  13. Zac Brown Band – Greatest Hits So Far…
  14. Cole Swindell – Cole Swindell
  15. Little Big Town – Pain Killer (Grade: 3/10)
  16. Garth Brooks – Man Against Machine (Grade: 7.5/10)
  17. Brantley Gilbert – Just As I Am (Grade: 5/10)
  18. Blake Shelton – Bringing Back The Sunshine (Grade: 4/10)
  19. Kenny Chesney – The Big Revival (Grade: 4.5/10)
  20. Lee Brice – I Don’t Dance (Grade: 5/10)
  21. Aaron Watson – The Underdog (Grade: 8/10)
  22. Tim McGraw – Sundown Heaven Town (Grade: 7.5/10)
  23. George Strait – The Cowboy Rides Away: Live From AT&T Stadium
  24. Dierks Bentley – Riser
  25. Thomas Rhett – It Goes Like This

Notes:

  • Luke Bryan and Sam Hunt stay at #1 and #2 respectively this week.
  • Shania Twain’s Shania: Still The One: Live From Vegas album was this week’s biggest loser, which fell seven spots from #3 to #10.
  • Luke Bryan’s complete spring break albums collection was also this week’s biggest losers, falling seven spots to #12.
  • This week’s biggest gainer is the Bob Wills tribute album, Still The King: Celebrating The Music of Bob Wills And His Texas Playboys, which moved up 19 spots from #30 to #11.
  • Sturgill Simpson fell out of the top 25 this week with his 2014 album Metamodern Sounds in Country Music album. While it fell out this week, it could re-emerge in the top 25 next week thanks to an endorsement on national television this past week. American Idol judge and fellow country artist Keith Urban, a noted big fan of Sturgill, wore a Simpson shirt on the show this past week:

Source: Billboard

Billboard Top 25 Country Albums This Week [March 21]

Hunt Montevallo

  1. Sam Hunt – Montevallo  (Grade: 1/10)
  2. Shania Twain – Shania: Still The One: Live From Las Vegas
  3. Jason Aldean – Old Boots, New Dirt (Grade: 3/10)
  4. Florida Georgia Line – Anything Goes (Grade: 0/10)
  5. Carrie Underwood – Greatest Hits: Decade #1
  6. Eric Church – The Outsiders
  7. Chase Rice – Ignite the Night (Grade: 2/10)
  8. Aaron Watson – The Underdog (Grade: 8/10)
  9. Miranda Lambert – Platinum
  10. Luke Bryan – Crash My Party
  11. Zac Brown Band – Greatest Hits So Far…
  12. Garth Brooks – Man Against Machine (Grade: 7.5/10)
  13. George Strait – The Cowboy Rides Away: Live From AT&T Stadium
  14. Asleep At The Wheel – Still The King: Celebrating The Music of Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys
  15. Cole Swindell – Cole Swindell
  16. Various Artists – The Average Joes DJ’s Present: Mud In The Club, Volume 1
  17. Little Big Town – Pain Killer (Grade: 3/10)
  18. Blake Shelton – Bringing Back The Sunshine (Grade: 4/10)
  19. Brantley Gilbert – Just As I Am (Grade: 5/10)
  20. The Mavericks – Mono (Grade: 10/10)
  21. Kenny Chesney – The Big Revival (Grade: 4.5/10)
  22. Lee Brice – I Don’t Dance (Grade: 5/10)
  23. Steve Earle & The Dukes – Terraplane
  24. Tim McGraw – Sundown Heaven Town (Grade: 7.5/10)
  25. Sturgill Simpson – Metamodern Sounds in Country Music (Grade: 10/10)

Notes: 

  • Sam Hunt remains at #1 with his Montevallo album.
  • Shania Twain debuts at #2 this week with her live Vegas album. To give you an idea how far Sam Hunt is ahead of everyone behind him on the chart, according to Billboard his “set outsold Twain’s by a nearly 2-to-1 margin (16,000, up 2 percent).
  • Aaron Watson’s The Underdog fell six spots from #2 to #8 this week.
  • Zac Brown Band moved up eight spots to #11 with their greatest hits album, making it the biggest gainer.
  • George Strait’s The Cowboy Rides Away: Live From AT&T Stadium album moved up five spots from #18.
  • Cole Swindell moved up five spots with his self-titled debut album.
  • Little Big Town’s Pain Killer fell five spots.
  • Blake Shelton’s Bring Back The Sunshine fell seven spots.
  • The biggest loser this week was The Mavericks, as their album Mono fell 10 spots to #20.
  • Steve Earle and The Dukes fell nine spots to #23 with their new album Terraplane.
  • Sturgill Simpson’s Metamodern Sounds in Country Music run in the Top Country Albums chart will most likely come to an end next week, as he has consistently dropped in the last few weeks. But keep in mind out of all the albums on the chart, it’s spent the fourth most amount of time on it (only trailing Church, Bryan and Swindell). That itself is an accomplishment.
  • The two new additions to this week’s chart are Asleep at the Wheel’s tribute album to Bob Wills and The Average Joes DJ’s Present: Mud In The Club, Volume 1 (no I will not review it, so don’t even ask).

Source: Billboard