Aaron Watson

Aaron Watson (9:30 PM)

Sam Outlaw (8:15 PM)

Tue, May 26, 2015

8:00 pm

$15.00

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Aaron Watson - (Set time: 9:30 PM)
Aaron Watson
Vaquero


Aaron Watson isn’t interested in what someone else thinks he should do. But instead of
getting lonely as he sidesteps expectations, he’s gaining followers––hundreds of thousands
of them. Delivered with a warm smile and fueled by a wild spirit, Watson’s rebellion echoes
the land that helped make him.

Watson remains strikingly similar to the people that still dot his native West Texas. They’re a
rugged people, proud of home but humble and hardworking, the first to help a neighbor but
also fiercely independent. And Watson is unquestionably one of them.

“I’ve always considered myself an anti-rock star,” Watson says, his drawl cracking slightly as
he grins. “People don’t like me because I’m a rock star. People like me because I’m just like
them.”

Throughout his 17-year career that spans a dozen albums and more than 2,500 shows
throughout the U.S. and Europe, 39-year-old Watson has stubbornly and sincerely identified
with the everyman––even as he’s proven to be the exception to the rule.

The latest evidence of Watson’s homespun singularity is Vaquero, an ambitious 16-song set
of character-driven storytelling, level-headed cultural commentary, and love songs for grown-
ups that promise to further solidify his status as one of today’s finest torch-bearers of real
country music.

Vaquero is the follow-up to 2015’s The Underdog, an acclaimed collection that also made
history. Watson was sitting at his kitchen table as his wife Kim scrambled eggs when he got
the call: The Underdog had debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Country Albums Chart. It was
the first time an independent, male country artist had ever outsold majors to premiere at the
top spot. “We started jumping around and squealing like kids,” he says. “It was a beautiful
moment because I got to share it with the girl who believed in me when I was broke and
playing some pawnshop guitar. It is something I’ll never forget.” That momentous instant also
arrived with a built-in challenge. “Once we dried the tears of joy, it hit me,” Watson says. “I
had my work cut out for me for my next album.”

Determined, Watson committed to waking up every morning before the sun rose to write
songs on that same old pawnshop guitar he scored 20 years ago. “I bet you I couldn’t get $50
for that guitar,” he says. “But it means the world to me.” He penned songs in the back of a
bus on the highway, too, as the band spent the last two years playing more than 35 states
and six countries.

The result is Vaquero, a bold album that confidently draws from Texas’ storied musical
melting pot: dancehall shuffles, dustbowl narratives, Tejano, and more fill the record.

In writing the new album, Watson felt especially drawn to the idea of the vaquero, the original
Spanish horseman that set the foundation for the North American cowboy, a solitary figure


with a legendary work ethic. Watson is a modern-day vaquero––he just gets up at 5 a.m. to
wrangle songs instead of cattle. And while he won’t deny the pressure he felt following his
last album’s success, outside barometers can’t compel him to change who he is or what he
writes. Watson is Watson, chart-topping record or not.

“This is the first album I’ve ever made where if it’s the last album I ever make, I could be
content with that,” Watson says of Vaquero.

One listen and it’s easy to understand why. Album opener “Texas Lullaby” pays lilting
homage both to home and to the bravery of the young heroes fighting wars. Deep
connections to place and family course throughout the record. Sing-along “These Old Boots
Have Roots” celebrates new love by offering promises grounded in the honor and grace of
past generations. A fiddle accents Watson’s lines playfully then escalates to a hopeful roar.

Romance is a central theme of the album, but Watson isn’t interested in adding to the steady
stream of hook-up anthems coming out of Music Row. Watson’s love songs are celebrations
of monogamy and the bonds that only time, mutual respect, and persistence can build. The
swinging, fiddle-soaked “Take You Home Tonight” anticipates a steamy night in, while “Run
Wild Horses” is a passionate ode to lovemaking featuring a standout vocal performance from
Watson, whose laid-back croon lets loose and soars. Infectious first single “Outta Style” and
shuffling “Be My Girl Tonight” both praise staying power and explore how to protect it.

Watson revels in another kind of love on the album closer, “Diamonds & Daughters.” Two
years ago, his then four-year-old daughter asked him to write her a song for his next record.
“I thought it sure would be special if I could write her a song right now that we could dance to
at her wedding someday,” he says. That’s exactly what he did. A tender look at the past,
present, and future, the song will undoubtedly touch every parent and daughter who hears it.

The title track is an accordion-fueled joy, buoyed by Watson’s delivery of life lessons courtesy
of an old vaquero sitting alone at a bar. “Mariano’s Dream” and “Clear Isabel” are companion
pieces, placed back-to-back to stunning cinematic effect. Plaintive instrumental “Mariano’s
Dream” kicks off the experience, haunting and sad as an acoustic guitar carries listeners
through a lush Tex-Mex soundscape. The song then segues into “Clear Isabel,” and listeners
soon discover the Mariano named in the previous track is father to Isabel. A story of sacrifice
and heartbreak, “Clear Isabel” imbues the souls who choose to cross a river in search of
safety with the dignity and beauty they deserve. “It’s one of my favorite moments on the
record,” Watson says. “I feel like if I could play Guy Clark that song, he’d smile.”

“They Don’t Make ‘Em Like They Used To” begins as warm nostalgia, and other comforts
before intensifying into no mere stroll down memory lane, but an increasingly indignant rant,
capturing the hurt and anger of a country that’s currently reeling politically and socially. “I
think it might be the best song I’ve ever written,” Watson says.

Refusing to worry about charts or current trends, Watson hopes the main thing Vaquero
accomplishes is bringing his growing legion of fans joy. And no matter what happens next, he
is anchored and ready. “It doesn’t really matter whether I’m playing a dancehall in Texas or a
stadium tour around the world, I’m just me,” he says. “I won’t change. I’m just too rooted in
what I believe in. When you’ve played for such a long time to nobody, now that there’s
somebody, you really don’t take that for granted.”
Sam Outlaw - (Set time: 8:15 PM)
Sam Outlaw
The future’s bright for the young Angeleno
And an old song plays in his head
Far as he knows. . .

These lines from the title track of Sam Outlaw's debut album Angeleno could almost serve as a haiku-like artist bio. Outlaw is a southern Californian singer-songwriter steeped in the music and mythos of west coast country, absorbing the classic vibes of everything from '60s Bakersfield honky-tonk to '70s Laurel Canyon troubadour pop and refashioning them into a sound that's pleasurably past, present and future tense.

“The music I play, I call 'SoCal country,'” says Outlaw. “It's country music but with a Southern California spirit to it. What is it about Southern California that gives it that spirit, I don't exactly know. But there's an idea that I like that says - every song, even happy songs, are written from a place of sadness. If there's a special sadness to Southern California it's that there's an abiding shadow of loss of what used to be. But then, like with any place, you have a resilient optimism as well.”

While he explores those shadows on the title track and the elegiac “Ghost Town,” Outlaw mostly comes down on the side of the optimists through Angeleno's dozen tracks. Opener “Who Do You Think You Are?” breezes in with south of the border charm, all sunny melody wrapped in mariachi horns, while “I'm Not Jealous” is a honky-tonker with a smart twist on the you-done-me-wrong plot. “Love Her For A While” has the amiable lope of early '70s Poco, “Old Fashioned” the immediacy of a touch on the cheek, and the future Saturday night anthem “Jesus Take The Wheel (And Drive Me To A Bar)” shows Outlaw has a sense of humor to match his cowboy poet nature. Throughout, producers Ry and Joachim Cooder frame the material with spare, tasteful arrangements, keeping the focus on Outlaw's voice. And it's a voice that indeed seems to conjure up California in the same way as Jackson Browne's or Glenn Frey's. Easy on the ears, open-hearted, always with an undertow of melancholy.

Outlaw's journey west began in South Dakota - he was born Sam Morgan -with stops in the midwest before his family finally settled in San Diego. Like many artists, he got the music bug early. But he had serious restrictions on what he could listen to. “I grew up in a conservative Christian home,” he explains. “My first real communal experience with music was in church. I always loved harmonizing with other people. And even though I was technically not allowed to listen to the radio, my dad loved the Beatles. My mom loved the Beach Boys and the Everly Brothers. So we listened to oldies radio, and I think got my first sense of melody and harmony from that.”

After what he calls an “unfortunate” high school cover band (“We did almost all Oasis,” he laughs) and some early stabs at songwriting in college, Outlaw's moment of revelation arrived via the classic country voices of Emmylou Harris and George Jones. “When I first heard them, it totally blew my mind,” he says. “I went out the next day and bought Pieces of The Sky and a George Jones compilation. It was the first time I felt like I had a real special connection with music. That's when I started to get more serious about playing the guitar and writing.”

After switching gears from a day job in Ad sales to pursue his passion, Outlaw marked the change by borrowing his mother's maiden name for a stage moniker. “The initial impetus for using Outlaw was no more than, 'Hey, this is a name that sounds country and it's a family name, so why not?'” he says. “Now, with my mom having passed away and her being a really strong encouragement in my life towards music, I like using the name as a way of honoring her.”

He wasted no time doing his mom proud. A self-released EP in 2014, buzz about his live shows, slots at Stage Coach and AmericanaFest, a video on CMT. Meanwhile, as he prepared to self-produce his first-full length album, his drummer Joachim Cooder played some rough demos for his father, legendary guitarist Ry Cooder.

“When Ry expressed interest in working with me, it was just, 'Holy shit, I can't believe it!'” says Outlaw. “I mean, there's no sweeter person to make a 'country music in Southern California record about Southern California.' He's a master of so many genres.”

To get familiar with the material, Cooder sat in with Outlaw's band. “Before we got in the studio, Ry had already played four shows with us. It helped him curate which members of my band would work best for the live tracking. I was thinking that we'd have five rehearsals before the studio, get everything super tight, then go in and knock it out of the park. But Ry said, 'The band knows the songs. Let's leave some room for life to happen when we get in there.' I liked that he had faith in the players and the songs that we didn't need to over-rehearse. And throughout the sessions, he was on top of every nook and cranny of the arrangements. ”

Recording in Megawatt Studios in Los Angeles, with a band that included Bo Koster (My Morning Jacket), Taylor Goldsmith (Dawes), Gabe Witcher (Punch Brothers) and Chuy Guzmán (Linda Ronstadt), Outlaw heard the album he always dreamed of coming to life. “Ninety percent of what you're hearing is still the five of us in a room performing a song,” he says. “Ry plays on every song, electric and acoustic on the basics. And then all the overdubs he did were just insanely beautiful. He was able to make magic happen on every track.

The resulting record has the timeless feel of those that inspired Outlaw. It is also almost defiantly non-trendy. Does he worry about fitting in with a country scene teeming with bros and Bon Jovi wannabes? “This whole debate about what country music is or isn't, bro country versus traditional, americana versus ameripolitan, it's all pretty boring to me,” he says. “I think I made the distinction of SoCal country because I know that people crave classification. Ultimately I think that the music will speak for itself.”

As Outlaw gears up to support Angeleno with tour dates opening for Dwight Yoakam and Clint Black (“Two of my heroes,” he says), he's hopeful not only for his own record but a comeback of the music he loves. “I've made it a personal mission to remind people how great country music is,” he says. “And specifically, I want to remind them that Southern California has a really rich history with country music. Even though there hasn't been a scene here for a long time, there has been a noticeable resurgence. If I can be involved in some kind of revival in the spirit of this music, that would make me very proud.”
Venue Information:
Troubadour
9081 Santa Monica Blvd
Los Angeles, CA, 90069
http://www.troubadour.com/

All lineups and times subject to change