By most accounts, Texas-raised guitarist Dale Watson plays country music. He sings with a baritone reminiscent of Johnny Cash, his band features a pedal-steel guitar player and he has a standing gig at Austin’s famed Continental Club.
“ ‘Country music’ doesn’t really describe what I do anymore,” Watson says. “It used to and I was always proud to say it but it’s too confusing now for mainstream people — especially for people that are fans of the new stuff that’s out there called country music. I am so far removed from it that there’s not even common ground. There’s absolutely zero — and I mean zero — similarities between me and Taylor Swift and me and Luke Bryan and me and Kenny Chesney.”
Rather than trying to re-educate fans of country radio on the roots of the genre, Watson wants to educate them with his term.
“It’s original music with a prominent roots influence: honky-tonk, Western swing, rockabilly and outlaw,” he says. “The name itself doesn’t connote anything; you don’t have any root word at all. A lot of people say, ‘That sounds like an ice cream.’ ”
Watson runs a now-annual festival in Austin featuring like-minded acts, the Ameripolitan Music Awards, and he hopes to help foster fellow musicians with a studio he opened last year.
He’s also, more than 20 years into his career, having a bit of a renaissance. Recently, he appeared on “Austin City Limits,” was featured on NPR and wound up in an episode of “The Bachelorette.” Last month, he dropped his latest album, “Call Me Insane.”
Recorded over four days with producer Lloyd Maines and backing band the Lone Stars (named after what Watson calls “the best beer in the world”), “Call Me Insane” is the perfect entry into Ameripolitan.
There’s a tribute to the late George Jones (“Jonesin’ for Jones,” written as an improvisation during a show) and a sequel to “Mammas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys” (made famous by Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson), cheekily titled “Mamas Don’t Let Your Cowboys Grow Up to Be Babies.” There are also songs about drinking, driving and women.
If that sounds like country music to you, Watson might disagree, but “Call Me Insane” did do something the singer had only experienced once before: It nabbed a spot on Billboard’s Country albums chart.
Birchmere, 3701 Mount Vernon Ave., Alexandria; Fri., 7:30 p.m., $25.
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