Album Review: Aaron Watson – Vaquero

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Aaron Watson wasn’t an artist I was all too familiar with previously to ‘Vaquero’. Indeed, I only took the review based on a recommendation, but that is the great thing about being part of a musical community: there are always recommendations, and more often than not they are spot on. ‘Vaquero’ is a really enjoyable record, with smooth-yet-raw vocals and a lovely country rhythm running through, somewhat similar to a Dierks Bentley before he started being played on the radio.

‘Vaquero’ starts off with a beautiful story of a man who goes to war leaving his girl behind. The lyric is one of those that describes a path through life, right from adolescence to death, telling of the similar fiery traits appearing throughout. On the face of it ‘Texas Lullaby’ has all of the components of a bog-standard patriotic song with the military references, the home-state pride and the story of a simple guy who lives a good life ‘full of fire and gasoline’, but the story is so well written and is complemented so well with Aaron’s down-to-earth vocals and understated backing that it far overshadows many tracks of similar substance, and that is much to his credit.

‘Be My Girl’ is another of my favourite tracks on the record, being a sucker for a beautiful ballad. Based around a slow swinging rhythm and plenty of steel guitar and fiddle this is definitely a song to slow-dance to, and again Aaron’s smooth vocals are right at the forefront of the effectiveness of the song. There isn’t much complexity involved in ‘Be My Girl’, but then ‘Vaquero’ isn’t a particularly complex album, which I think is to its credit: it doesn’t try to compete with the big-hitters in either Americana or Country, but slots in perfectly into its independent niche.

The title track ‘Vaquero’ signals the beginning of the middle of the record, telling the story of meeting an old Mexican vaquero in a bar, buying drinks in exchange for wisdom. With a more south-Texan styling including plenty of accordion and mandolin, this moves away from the more mainstream styling of previous songs, and focusses more on the stories and roots in terms of the Texan style of country music. A long life lived well is a recurring theme through many country songs and this is no exception, with the lone Mexican man mourning his wife and reminiscing about the lessons learnt through a long life with her, passing on this wisdom to Aaron’s narrator who can pass on the memory of this extraordinary ordinary man.

‘Mariano’s Dream’ breaks the album in half, and is a gorgeous quiet instrumental track composed of atmospheric and sedate hand-drums and a South Texan acoustic guitar. It is subtly dramatic enough to have the stylings of a soundtrack, but for a track with no lyric on a mainstream album, is a wonderful addition and is actually strangely one of my favourite moments on the record! It leads on to ‘Clear Isabel’, the tale of a father and daughter escaping across the Mexican border to start a life in Texas after the son was shot by the cartels. Taken in by the narrator’s family, the song tells the story of how they make themselves a life in South Texas. Musically, similar Southern stylings are used as we’ve previously seen on the album, but building more with electric guitar towards the end. The song ends tragically, with Isabel having a happy life with Aaron’s character, but the father being gunned down in a border town, the irony not escaping the writer of “The grass being greener just beyond that Loreto borderline” but yet this immigrant got gunned down after escaping the apparent violence of his home in Mexico.

‘Big Love In A Small Town’ is the first time we hear Aaron being complemented by a female backing harmoniser, and it works beautifully. A nostalgic ballad serenading the virtues of a simple love, breakthrough it isn’t, but you don’t offer listen to country music to hear groundbreaking new music. The beauty for me is in the writing and the harmonies, remaining simple and innocent, which is why there is such unsettlement in the genre with the influx of R&B and pop music onto the airwaves.

‘Vaquero’ is my first experience of an Aaron Watson record, and I’m so glad I decided to review it, because it is a genuinely good country record. It has enough variety in stylings to retain interest over a large 16 songs, and no real weak points, although some tracks I have not mentioned here just due to the length of the record overall! Simple music is a refreshing break from everyday life, and this is a good escapist record, losing yourself in the stories told of Mexicans and South Texas.

  Track List
  1. Texas Lullaby
  2. Take You Home Tonight
  3. These Old Boots Have Roots
  4. Be My Girl
  5. They Don’t Make Em Like They Used To
  6. Vaquero
  7. Outta Style
  8. Run Wild Horses
  9. Mariano’s Dream
  10. Clear Isabel
  11. Big Love In A Small Town
  12. One Two Step At A Time
  13. Amen Amigo
  14. The Arrow
  15. Rolling Stone
  16. Diamonds And Daughters


More Information

Birthday

20th August, 1977


Birthplace

Amarillo, Texas



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About the Author

Nick

I listen to music of all genres, including most of the sub-genres within country. I tend to focus on alt-country/Americana, but have a few loves within more mainstream circles. I am almost certainly the world's biggest Lee Ann Womack and Chris Stapleton fan, but my love of Aubrey Sellers, Jason Isbell and Sturgill Simpson is also the stuff of legend.