A year after he nearly fatally overdosed following the death of his fiancee in 2000, Dale Watson released the understandably mournful Every Song I Write Is for You. Yet its proper follow-up, Dreamland (a rambunctious live album and a Christmas set preceded it), lightens Watson's heavy heart with an assortment of toe-tappers and love songs that maintain Watson's outspoken, career-long commitment to hardcore honky-tonk.
The production by Asleep at the Wheel's Ray Benson showcases Watson's musical range and vocal command across a musical terrain that extends from the breezy swing of "California Wine" (reminiscent of early Merle Haggard) to the romantic reverie of "Dreamland" to the bluegrass tinge of "Pretty Girls" and "Fox on the Run." Best of all is "I Don't Rock No Cradle," a testament to fidelity amid the temptations of the night. Though "I Wish You'd Come Around" and "She Don't Care" show that the Lone Star singer is no stranger to the lovelorn ballad, the boot-scooting "Way Down Texas Way" and the barroom anthem "Honky Tonkers Don't Cry" remind that good times can triumph over bad memories — which, for the star-crossed Watson, really says something.