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Country music has recently been forced to celebrate the success of the underdog. While Chris Stapleton and Maren Morris have taken their years of toil on the independent circuit fully into the mainstream arena, Margo Price and Aaron Watson are happily high profile on the edge of the mainstream. Both artist have proved uncompromising in the sounds they craft and openly honest in their lyrical content. With Margo edging closer to mainstream glory, Aaron Watson is hot on her heels as he releases his latest studio album Vaquero.
Having become the first independent male artist to his #1 in the US with his 2015 release The Underdog, the pressure is on for Watson to now capitalise on his success. Can Vaquero solidify his place in the hearts and record players of his ever-growing fanbase?
Vaquero is a strong release. There is no way to deny it, but it is not The Underdog. However, it would be impossible for it to ever be, for Watson is arriving at the record from a very different starting point. At the time of The Underdog’s release, he was exactly that. Two years later he has the mainstream industry watching his every move and anticipating a fall.
While he may not have topped his last record, he certainly delivers a collection with a punch and panache. Aaron Watson is old school country. He always has been. He always will be. But that does not mean he does not know how to write with a hook. Vaquero is The Underdog with extra punch but a little less heart.
For the problem with Vaquero is the inclusion of tracks like Outta Style and Run Wild Horses which actually uncover Watson’s desire for acceptance by the mainstream country industry. Although it would be hard to say that they do not have signature elements of his sound throughout, they also sound like they want to be Tim McGraw and William Michael Morgan, which would be ok if he were just setting out but he has set his own high bar and his fans don’t wish him to fall short.
However when an artist is able to deliver a song as pure of heart and open of mind as They Don’t Make Em Like They Used To or as strikingly authentic as These Boots Have Roots all is forgiven.
At 16 songs in length, Vaquero could have been stronger if a few tracks shorter, but after 11 albums, Watson can be forgiven for wanting to shake up the formula for the radio success his original sound should have earned him.Share