Aaron Watson

Cabooze & Live Nation Present:

Aaron Watson

Zane Williams

Fri, June 23, 2017

Doors: 7:00 pm / Show: 8:00 pm


This event is 18 and over

Aaron Watson
Aaron Watson
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
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 grownups
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.”
Zane Williams
Zane Williams
Bringin' Country Back" is more than a catchphrase for Zane Williams. It is a rallying cry for a return to authenticity and substance in mainstream country music, and a fitting title for his sixth studio album. "I think of country music as poetry for the common man," he says reflectively. "The stories that draw you in, the simple truth stated in a way you wish you could've said...there's an honesty to country music that totally grabbed me the first time I heard it."

That plain-spoken, down-home honesty has now become the calling card for Zane's own career, landing him four #1 songs on the Texas radio charts, opening gigs with heroes like George Jones and Alan Jackson, and even an invitation to perform at the Grand Ole Opry in 2015. The genuine quality of his music is no fluke. In a world where most popular music is created by committee, Zane writes the vast majority of his songs alone, whenever the inspiration strikes. "I get a lot of ideas while I'm busy doing other tasks," he says, "say driving down the road, or doing dishes, or mowing the yard. My wife can always tell when I'm working on a song because my toe is tapping, my lips are moving, and I can't hear a word she's saying."

Taking the reins for the first time as sole producer on this project, Williams says that being an independent artist has its advantages. "We didn't have any hoops to jump through for this record, and no one to please but ourselves. I just went into the studio with my favorite players, most of whom play with me on the road, and I did my best to create a record that sounds like the music I love." For Zane, that means lots of harmonies, fiddle, and steel guitar wrapped around songs that, while carefully crafted, lean more toward good-natured showmanship than gloomy introspection.

Unsurprisingly, most of the subject matter draws its inspiration from Zane's current life experiences. He offers the listener some road-tested dancehall advice in the rollicking "Honkytonk Situation," while "Slow Roller" and "That's Just Me" celebrate his traditional values against a backdrop of easy-going, mid-tempo grooves. Only twice on the record does Zane break from his real life situation to play a character role...first as a cowboy down on love in "I Don't Have the Heart," and second as a recent divorcé in the heartbroken "Goodbye Love." He closes with an homage to country music legend Willie Nelson, whose discovery of musical independence in Texas has many parallels with Zane's own.

Early on, neither Zane nor his family would've guessed he one day would become the standard-bearer for traditional country music that he is today. Born in Abilene, TX, to a pair of college professors, Zane was moved as a child first to Kentucky, then West Virginia, and then California as his parents pursued their academic careers. While he enjoyed singing harmony in church and composing his own instrumental pieces on the family piano, it wasn't until he turned sixteen and got the car keys (and control of the radio inside) that he had his first transformative experience with country music.

"I'm flipping stations and I land on Bob Kingsley's Country Countdown one Sunday morning after church, and I hear this guy Garth Brooks singing "The Dance." I had just broken up with my first girlfriend, and that song wrecked me; it cut right through me like no song ever had." Not long after, his parents bought him a used guitar as a reward for good test scores, and Zane began trying his hand at writing his own songs. He was as surprised as anyone to find he had a knack for turning a phrase and telling a story in song. Still, a career in country music seemed far-fetched, so he followed his parents' advice and enrolled as a math major at Abilene Christian University. By the time he walked across the stage four years later to accept his diploma, his hobby had blossomed into a passion, and he moved to Nashville in 1999 to pursue music full time.

Music City, where co-writing was like shaking hands and pop influences dominated the trends, proved to be a poor fit for a tradition-loving young man who did his best work independently. In 2006, Zane released his first studio album Hurry Home, the title track of which later became a top-20 Billboard hit for then-Sony artist Jason Michael Carroll. Despite this success, his nine years in Nashville left Zane disillusioned with the state of the country music industry and dissatisfied with simply writing songs for other artists. So in 2008 Zane left a staff-writer publishing deal to move back to his wife's hometown of McKinney, TX, start a family, and start his career over as an independent artist. "I remember turning my office keys in to my publisher, sitting there in the car, and feeling so frustrated. They liked my music, but they just didn't know what to do with it. It felt like I was giving up on my dream."

However it didn't take long for that dream to be reborn, as he quickly found in Texas a welcome home for his brand of honest, traditional country music. "In Texas, all the middlemen standing between me and the fans were gone. I could just make records, play shows, and be myself. I found out it didn't have to be complicated." Four more independent records followed, each attracting a wider audience than the last. When Zane put together his first band at age 33, he was a decade older than most of the new artists on the scene, and much more experienced as a songwriter, yet his obvious love of performing and connecting with his fans infused his shows with a youthful passion. Bringin' Country Back melds that passion with his hard-earned experience as a performer and producer to create his most confident work yet. "I just love country music, and I don't want to see it fall by the wayside," he says. "I wanted to create a laid-back, old-school country album that folks could listen to on the back porch with the sun going down. It's nothing fancy, but it's real." And isn't that what country music should be?
Venue Information:
The Cabooze
917 Cedar Ave
Minneapolis, MN, 55404