Album Review – Dale Watson and Ray Benson’s ‘Dale and Ray’

Author: Leon Blair

So before we actually dig into the review we have for today, I have to tell you guys something. You see, this isn’t going to be a normal “album review”, nor will any of the other ones I do this year. I needed a change from my traditional style. Therefore, I’m now coining the phrase, “interreview” (a cross between an interview and a regular review). I’m pretty much going to do all of these in a question and answer style format from now on. I’ll still dig into the heart of every album like I’ve always done, I’ll just do it in a way that’s easier and quite frankly more fun for me. If you have any questions, let me know in the comments, because this will admittedly get somewhat weird. 


Who? – Dale Watson and Ray Benson
Place Of Origin? – For Dale, Austin, Texas. Ray is from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Album Release Date? – January 6th, 2017

Opinion On The Artist’s Discography Overall Up To This Point? – Unfortunately (and admittedly) I’m not as familiar with either artist as I should be, however I have heard Dale’s live album, Live In London….England (which Andy wrote a terrific review on back in April). I have yet to hear anything by Asleep At The Wheel (which Ray is the front man of), but I do know the two mean have a genuine appreciation for authentic country music, which is aces in my book.

Where Might Other People Know These Artists From? – Dale’s been around the scene for a long time, releasing his debut album, Cheatin’ Heart Attack in 1995. He also is the founder of the term “Ameripolitan”, as well as the guy who was making protest songs long before they were cool. Ray is the front man for the Country and Western-Swing group, Asleep At The Wheel, a band which saw some moderate success on the country charts back in the mid 1970’s. As far as the two collaborating together, Ray produced Watson’s 2004 album, Dreamland.

Is There Any Sort Of Event Surrounding the Making Of This Album? – As far as I know this is just a project that’s been waiting to be released for quite sometime. Now, the two men have made like ol’ Waylon and Willie and have buddied up to bring us their new album, Dale and Ray.

Can You Give A Brief Overview Of This New Project? Dale and Ray isn’t the sort of album that’s going to knock your socks off or blow your house down. However, that’s not the main focus of it anyway. If you’re looking for an album that’s very energetic and a whole lot of fun, you’re going to get it with this album. Like Randy Rogers and Wade Bowen’s duet album back in 2015, this is the type of project that just showcases two friends having a hell of a good time and actually showcasing some stronger material than one might even expect.

What Are The Low Points / Nitpicks Of The Project? It’s easier to start with this question mostly because I don’t have an overall ton to say here (plus I want to end on a good note with this project). I will say that there are times where both men aren’t always showcasing an energetic performance from a vocal standpoint such as on “The Ballad Of Dale and Ray” or “Forget About Tomorrow Today”.  I won’t beat around the bush, their ages are showing in their vocals. They aren’t bad songs per se, (we’ll be getting back to “Ballad” as a matter of fact) but they don’t feel as fun as they should be. Really though, that’s my biggest nitpick, and when it comes to vocals I can acknowledge those are my problems, not theirs. On the subject though, I will say that the one song I didn’t care for at all really was the closing track, “Sittin’ and Thinkin’ About You” for the same reasons I listed above as well as just not personally enjoying the melody at all. Other than that, I can’t think of much else, folks.

What Are The High Points / Praiseworthy Elements Of The Project? I definitely think that the front half of this album is loaded with some truly great songs. While I made my stance on “The Ballad Of Dale and Ray” clear already, I do want to say that I enjoyed the energetic chemistry between the two that bolsters the lyrical content. That’s not a contradiction to what I said earlier though, after all, where both men don’t really add much energy as pure vocalists, they do add energy through their writing as well as just frankly shooting the shit with each other at times, and I can appreciate that. On the opener, they confess their love for country music, smoking pot and other activities in a way that feels genuine to both men. Of course, the next four tracks are really something to behold. “Feeling Haggard” is a touching ode to the Hag, and again, considering the background of both men, this is definitely coming from the heart, and the pedal steel on this track is really adding to the melancholic feel overall. Damn great song. The other type of energy I was describing comes through on “Bus Breakdown”, certainly the most humorous song on the album as the men tell the tale of life on the road from a humorous point of view (rather than the common opposite way), as well as a funny tale of a bus that Ray sold to Dale that wasn’t exactly in the best working condition.
Ironically enough, two of my favorite songs on the album are cover songs in the form of “I Wish You Knew” and “Write Your Own Songs”. The former is a Louvin Brothers song that definitely has a very nice catchy melody to it (and really helps to balance the record out along with “Bus Breakdown”) while the latter is a Willie Nelson song that pretty much was the original protest song against the mainstream operations in Nashville. Hey, they may be clichéd today, but this is definitely an example of a way to make it seem original, and you can tell from their performance that the two men love singing it. Again, the front half of this album is damn consistent and much greater than I could have expected.
Now, that’s not to say the latter half lags behind though. “Cryin’ To Cryin’ Time Again” is a clever take on the classic Buck Owens song that spins in a way that feels reminiscent of Eric Church’s “Record Year”- showing how this narrator is drowning his sorrows in music to get over a heartache. I’ll close out by mentioning “A Hangover Ago”, another fine example of a song that’s a lot of fun from a lyrical standpoint.
Closing Thoughts? Overall I definitely enjoyed this project from Dale and Ray, and really I’m hoping we get another project soon from them. The two have great chemistry together as singers (both are baritones) as well as friends who are able to bounce off of each other in a way that’s fun, witty, and clever. I also think there’s a nice balance of the slower, moodier “tear in your beer” tracks such as “Cryin’ To Cryin’ Time Again” and “Feeling Haggard” along with the more fun, up-tempo numbers such as “Bus Breakdown” and “I Wish You Knew”. Again, it’s not meant to blow your socks off, but if you want an album that’s easy to enjoy from two artists who are still on their A-game at this point in their respective careers, you’ve got it with this album. This is a great way to start 2017 if you ask me.

Can You Summarize Who Might Like This Album? Definitely fans of the artists as well as fans of traditional country music.

Are There Any Albums This Reminds You Of? As I mentioned, it’s very reminiscent of Randy Rogers and Wade Bowen’s Hold My Beer album as well as even Merle Haggard and Willie Nelson’s Pancho and Lefty album. The buddy album lives on.

Two more questions, what are the best songs on this album? Can you give us the worst as well? – For best I’d have to go with “Feelin’ Haggard”, “I Wish You Knew”, “Bus Breakdown”, and “Write Your Own Songs”. The worst (which isn’t so much bad as just not really my thing) would have to go to “Sittin’ And Thinkin’ About You”. 

Grade: B

11 thoughts on “Album Review – Dale Watson and Ray Benson’s ‘Dale and Ray’

  1. Wow, really unique review style I’m not sure I have seen any other blogs do reviews this way but, I like it! Whatever someone is looking for when they read a review they can find it easily and this style allows separation of the different pieces of the review. If I’m being completely honest I’m not familiar with either of these artists so I’ll have to check it out. Any comparisons to the Bowen/Rogers album is good enough for me to give it a try.


    1. Hey thanks Alexander! I appreciate the kind words! Unique and to the point was what I was going for so I’m glad I achieved it.
      I’m not familiar with either artist either, but I definitely think you’d enjoy this. It’s not as good as Randy and Wade’s was but it’s still a fun, enjoyable listen.


  2. Interesting review style, I like it. It’s unique and suits your writing style. I’m not overly familiar with either of these artists, but I appreciate the comparison to Randy and Wade. Thanks for the pictures, it was cool to see you take that into consideration. I respect and appreciate that.


    1. Hey no problem, Megan! Thanks for bringing it to my attention. Honestly that’s just something I never took into consideration before. However, it was pretty easy to fix. Again, I’m sorry I didn’t do it before, I just honestly never knew about it (there’s still tons of things about the Weebly platform that I’m learning, haha).
      Thanks for the kind words about the review style as well. I know it’s a little “out there” but I figure I’ll try it out. It used to take me a couple hours to start a review, and now I wrote three this past weekend easily, so it’s definitely helped to reinvigorate my passion for this writing thing.


    2. Also, just curious, how are things such as hyperlinks and videos for you? I haven’t seen anything that lets me do anything with them but I can look into it if they’re a problem.


  3. Links are completely fine. YouTube videos are fine for most screen readers, including mine, but I went through that with my blog and couldn’t fix it to work for all. I have several blind people that I know that read Country exclusive, or I wouldn’t have even known that. Most of the common ones will read and play them fine though. SoundCloud is not the easiest thing for us, and that is why I don’t use it. I don’t think I’ve ever seen you use that anyway, haha.


    1. No, I try to use Youtube first and foremost since well, honesty it’s just easier haha. I only use SoundCloud if there’s something that’s exclusively streaming there since I’ve had problems with it before in terms of getting it to work/play.


  4. Fantastic review, Leon. This new review style is pretty cool. I may have to steal it. Planning to pick this one up. I like a lot of Dale’s music, and while I’m not especially familiar with Ray Benson, I have listened to a couple Asleep at the Wheel albums and have enjoyed them.


    1. Thanks Andy!
      Go ahead and steal all you want. I stole an idea from Pulse Music Board for a post today, lol. Honestly thinking of stealing more too….those top five bottom five threads would be fun here.
      I’ll admit, this isn’t as good as Randy and Wades album IMO, and I can’t say that their vocals will exactly be enough to hold your attention the entire way through, but I’d also argue there’s some stronger material here than many will give it credit for.


  5. I’m a little surprised that folks aren’t so familiar with these guys. I considered going to the album release party for this project at Gruene Hall a few days ago, but didn’t make it. Other than Willie Nelson himself, these guys are ringleaders for the Austin country/western scene as anyone. I’m just a couple songs in so far, and frankly a little underwhelmed early on, but that’s mainly because I’ve heard how good some of their individual projects have been (Americana station has been playing the song “Fugitive” from Dale’s recent album lately, and Asleep at the Wheel’s Bob Wills covers are gold).


    1. I will say that my grade for this is a little skewed. I’m not grading it like I would a main project nor did I approach it like one. Unless it’s a total down year I can’t see it making my year end lists either. I’ll agree that it’s not a completely good time, but I’d also argue the material is stronger than some will give credit for. Then again, I haven’t heard their other albums so I can’t say I’m being completely fair here, so your perspective is understanding (and appreciated). Underwhelming is definitely the word I’m seeing to describe this though.


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