Rolling into the Neurolux in downtown Boise, Idaho, I marvel that it is so cozy and intimate. A dark and narrow music lounge with a bar, small stage and dance floor, it’s a world away from big concert arenas. And tonight, a true Texas boy, Dale Watson, is performing. The Potato State is being treated to Dale’s brand of authentic Texas dance hall music, Ameripolitan.
Wayne “The Train” Brings Juke Joint Swing
Sharing the bill is another Texas boy, Wayne “The Train” Hancock. I haven’t heard of Wayne before. But as soon as he and his band start up, I love their music right away. The cover of Wayne’s new album, Slingin’ Rhythym, describes the vibe perfectly:
A finely honed brand of juke joint rhythm sitting in the sweet spot of American music between country, hillbilly, jazz and western swing.
My favorite part? Rose Sinclair, Wayne’s steel guitar. She is amazing and never misses a note.
I can’t believe it, but I’m standing right next to the stage. I could reach out and touch the leg of Rose’s steel guitar. Standing next to me is Ron, a guy who knows Rose. A fellow musician, they used to perform together around Austin.
After Wayne and his band finish their set, Rose comes over to hang out with Ron. We end up chatting for awhile, and I manage to hide my giddiness at hanging out with this awesome musician. Rose has lived in Austin for about seven years. Of all the musical instruments she knows how to play, steel guitar is her favorite.
Dale Watson is the Real Deal
Dale Watson and His Lone Stars take the Neurolux stage. Again, I marvel that I’m standing so close to the stage. Rose and Ron are still there, waiting to see Dale perform.
Dale plays lead guitar on a Fender Telecaster covered in coins. He is not “country” like the top 40, slick Nashville sound you hear on the radio. You would never put Dale on the same shelf with Jason Aldean and Taylor Swift. In fact, he asks the crowd to not call him “country.” He champions Ameripolitan, a blend of outlaw, honky-tonk, Western swing and rockabilly. Dale tells a story of forming his negative opinion about Nashville when Johnny Cash couldn’t get a record deal there. Independent, tattooed, and legit, Dale is an outspoken proponent of putting country back into country music.
And damn, he and his band are good. The small dance floor is packed. Many people in the audience respond with enthusiasm when Dale asks for song requests. No set list, he prefers to wing it, launching into each requested song without hesitation.
Apparently Lone Star Beer sponsors him. Which is funny, because you can’t even get Lone Star in Boise. Periodically, Dale stops and does a funny impromptu Lone Star commercial, holding up his beer bottle and smiling like Vanna White.
Back On the Bus
After the show, I check out the merchandise booth. Dale’s bus driver is manning the booth. He offers his drink coupons because he doesn’t drink. Then he shares a few tidbits, like the fact that Dale sometimes drives the bus. And they’re on tour 300 days out of the year. Nights off are rare. “Dale works hard,” he says.
Whatever Dale is doing, it’s working, because he puts on one hell of a show.