By ERIC SCHELKOPF
For those people tired of the syrupy pop that passes for country music these days, Dale Watson is the real deal.
His music channels the heart and spirit of Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley and others that went before him. Watson, who regularly performs at the Grand Old Opry and is a member of the Austin Music Hall of Fame, will perform Dec. 14 at Martyrs', 3855 Lincoln Ave., Chicago.
The show starts at 9 p.m. and tickets are $15, available at www.martyrslive.com.
I had the chance to talk to Watson, www.dalewatson.com, about his current activities, which include a new album.
Q - I understand your new album, "El Rancho Azul," will come out in January. What should people expect from the album?
This is the first typical "Dale Watson" Ameripolitan record I've done in 8 years. The distinction is that I used my band and it isn't a themed album like the records I've released of late. This is a honky tonk record for sure.
Q - What inspired you to write "The Daughters Wedding Song?" What did your daughters think of the song?
I wrote the song because I'm always asked a recommendation for the father /daughter dance at weddings. I usually do "Farmers Daughter" by Merle Haggard, but the mom is dead in that song, so I wrote one that says what I, as a dad want a special song to say.
My daughters have not heard it, they're not fans of my type of music, really.
Q - Your last album, "The Sun Sessions," has received plenty of critical praise. Did the album live up to your expectations? What do you think recording at Sun Studios added to the record?
It turned out much better than I thought I was capable. Largely due to Matt Ross-Spang, the engineer and that magical room. There is just something about that room and the sound it fostered from day one that makes it ideal to record roots music.
I don't think it would make a metal, hip hop or any other style sound special. It's just the perfect room for the genre it created.
Q - Hank Williams III has called you the "savior of country music." Do you think you are the savior of country music?
Oh heck no. That's kind of Shelton and I love him for it, but quite frankly I believe there is no saving it.
The very term has been successfully changed to refer to the Nashville pop country. I believe what I remember as country music needs go the way of bluegrass music and create year round festivals and venues that will cater to the small audience that supports this type of music.
One person can't do it. It'll take passionate fans and artists with integrity.
Q - You recently acted for the first time in the musical "The Ghost Brothers of Darkland County." What got you interested in the project and how was the experience? Do you think you will do any more acting in the future?
I have been trying to hone in on more acting jobs for years now. "Ghost Brothers" was intriguing just from the people involved - Stephen King, John Mellencamp and T-Bone Burnett.
I originally went for the lead and became the understudy and had a couple of performances, but most of my performances were the smaller role of Zydeco Cowboy. I hope to do more whether its TV, movies or theater.
Q - You made a video about Tiger Airways and how the airlines lost your box of CDs. Do you think you would have been compensated for the loss and reimbursed for the excess baggage fee if it were not for the video? Did you feel compelled to make the video?
Oh yes, I never would have gotten compensation without the video. I originally agreed to not release the video if they compensated me , but it leaked out through online newspaper interviews.
I have to show it to those folks to get the interviews and if course once its on the Web, you lose control. It went viral and I was doing the biggest TV and radio shows in Australia and even went out to New York to perform it on the Fox Morning Show.
My advice, get people's names that treat you wrong and put it in song. Very therapeutic.
Q - Who would you say is your biggest musical influence? Do you have any dream collaborations or projects?
My biggest influence has to be evenly Elvis and Johnny Cash, then Hag and Hank.
I always have dream projects. My goal is to meet and record with as many of the great musicians that played on the hits I remember.
That way I can keep learning something about my craft.