Gene Watson has been singing professionally since the late 1950s and has been a country music album recording artist since the late 1960s.
Gene Watson’s contribution to the country music genre is immeasurable.
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Country Music People have long ago nailed its colours to the mast where Gene Watson is concerned.
CMP has rigorously championed Gene Watson’s cause down through the years and have published a number of reviews of his album releases.
All reviews have been reproduced with the kind permission of Country Music People.
This review of ‘In a Perfect World‘ (Shanachie Records, 2007) by Jon Philibert was published in the October 2007 issue of Country Music People, and is reproduced here with the kind permission of the publishers.
Album Review by Jon Philibert
(***** out of 5)
‘The good news is that one of country music’s greatest singers Gene Watson – ‘Gene Watson is one of my all-time favourite ballad singers’ – George Jones (Saturday 12 September 1931 – Friday 26 April 2013), will be heading for these shores for an October tour.
The bad news is that said tour will only be taking in a few dates in Ireland. Good for our Irish friends, but for us benighted folks on the mainland, should we not be able to get to the likes of Letterkenny, Castleblaney and Sligo, we do at least have this superlative album as a consolation.
First things first. Gene Watson is a commanding singer who has never been less than 100% country and who always manages to select great material that suits him to a tee. A quick glance at the track listing indicates that the album consists of much loved comfortable country standards, mixed in with newer material and that Watson has invited some stellar friends in for the session.
Most of the guests though – which include some of the best voices in the business – make respectful background harmony contributions as opposed to trading lines or verses, so ‘In a Perfect World‘ (Shanachie Records, 2007) is not a duet album in the classic sense.
An exception is Rhonda Vincent‘s duet with Watson on a sublime, ‘Together Again’, which finds equally upfront vocal wise with Watson, but only Mark Chesnutt busts loose and has a verse and some lines of his own on the hard rocking and menacing ‘This Side of The Door’. This is an effective Tim Mensy / Shawn Camp leaving song, which Chesnutt first aired on his own ‘What A Way To Live’ album in 1994 (other versions include cuts by co-writer Mensy and recent Warner Brothers singing and one-time Nashville demo regular Lance Miller).
The album kicks off stunningly with Watson’s take on one of the finest country shuffles ever minted, Hank Cochran‘s ‘Don’t You Ever Get Tired of Hurting Me’.
Watson’s smooth, poised, almost insouciant vocal is close enough to a perfect performance as I’ve encountered all year. Wonderful.
Other recognisable fare, meanwhile, include ‘Today I Started Loving You Again’, which might have suffered from overkill by anyone else, but sounds like it was written yesterday in Watson’s hands, such is the freshness he brings to the table.
A little wiggly guitar riff accompanies him during the opening chorus with Lee Ann Womack joining him for the repeat chorus in a fiery and abandoned performance.
An undeservedly little known Harlan Howard song, ‘Let Me Be The First To Go’ – only a Wynn Stewart (Thursday 7 June 1934 – Wednesday 17 July 1985) track seems to be on record – is an ace tearjerker, in which Watson asks the Lord to call him home first and take him rather than his wife as life without her would not be worth living for him or the children. This is a superb vehicle for Watson, who handles the lyric in supreme and sensitive fashion and Vince Gill‘s bright, crystal clear backup vocals add tremendously to the cut.
The title track, ‘In A Perfect World’, with Joe Nichols in support, is a slow, dark song full of sorrow and troubled emotions. Watson, a man anchored at the bottom of his life, imagines it as he wishes it to be and how it was before he lost his love, not how it is today. The chorus runs: ‘In a perfect world it never rains on Saturday, in a perfect world I wouldn’t hate the holidays, I’d sleep just like a baby and have one down the hall, you’d still be my girl, in a perfect world’, and, believe me, it is almost too much to take.
More suffering and anguish come with the closing slowie, ‘Like I Wasn’t Even There’, which, musically, is a little more contemporary, with chords other than the usual 1-4-5 changes found on most of the rest of the album. Yet it is still classic Gene Watson and a great way to round the album off.
I had the enormous pleasure of writing the sleeve notes to a recent Hux Gene Watson two-fer re-issue, ‘Because You Believed in Me & Beautiful Country‘ (Hux Records, 2007) – a real labour of love – and if you don’t know Gene Watson, it’s a good place to start, covering the period when the artist was at his commercial peak.
However, once you have that one, turn your attention to this mighty, flawless piece of work that is ‘In a Perfect World‘ (Shanachie Records, 2007). Probably the best album I have heard in 2007. Hmm, maybe Ireland isn’t so far after all – ‘Hello, Ryanair’?’
Country Music People