There’s not much irony present when Dale Watson sings, “I’m too country now for country, just like Johnny Cash / Help me, Merle, I’m breaking out in a Nashville rash.” However, the Austin-based honky-tonk stalwart’s biting indictment of Nashville’s general artistic bankruptcy belies the fact that Watson hasn’t given up on Music City just yet. On his superb debut album, Cheatin’ Heart Attack (Hightone), he plays the kind of music he likes to listen to–songs full of heartbreak, despair, and booze a la Buck Owens, Faron Young, and Merle Haggard. His music may sound old-fashioned, but as he sings in the above-cited “Nashville Rash,” “You can’t grow when you rip your roots out of the ground.” Offset by elements like his sharp-tongued humor, Watson’s nostalgic purity only seems archaic when you compare it to the saccharine, white-bread flag-waving that dominates the country airwaves these days. Along with his crack band Lone Star, he summons up the unfettered joy of temporarily overcoming adversity with the help of a beer and some stomping music. Watson knows that music never solved the world’s problems; it just made them a bit easier to deal with. Saturday, 8 PM, Schubas, 3159 N. Southport; 525-2508.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Beth Herzhaft.