Dale Watson and Wayne “The Train” School Portland in Real Country Music (SHOW REVIEW)

The success of acts like Sturgill Simpson and Chris Stapleton has led to something of a revival of real country music in recent years. This is a good thing for anyone who has ever gagged at the thought of skinny jean-wearing bros rapping about beer pong being called country. But it’s also important to remember that, for all of the Simpsons and Stapletons that are now beloved by legions of fans, there are artists who have been proudly making real country music for years who somehow haven’t been noticed by the mainstream. On Saturday, October 13, two of those artists came through Portland, OR for a sold out show at the Doug Fir.

Dale Watson was in fine spirits when he took the stage donning a sleek jacket and his signature snow white pompadour. The Ameripolitan ambassador was ready to school his fans in the art of true country music. But first…Lone Star Beer. At times Dale’s shtick of being a lounge entertainer hawking beer got a little tired. With so many albums under his belt, Dale has a deep catalogue of material to choose from and could have easily filled his ninety minute set with songs. The crowd seemed to enjoy the banter, but there were many who yearned for more music and less shtick. But in between there were actually some songs played. The swinging favorite “I Lie When I Drink” had the audience singing along to the chorus while Dale would also treat them to a new honky tonk number called “Circumstance” from his upcoming film Yellow Rose. “My Baby Makes Me Gravy” was a hearty and twangy tune about good eatin’ and Dale even took the audience on a ride with a handful of his truckin’ songs. One of the highlights of the set came when Dale invited Celine Lee to the stage to sing with him. Celine had a polished rockabilly growl and she also charmed when singing duets with Dale that included the charming country love song “That’s How I Miss You” and a downright fun take on Johnny Cash and June Carter’s “Long Legged Guitar Pickin’ Man”.

Wayne “The Train” Hancock has long been one of the greatest singers in country music and rockabilly, and his voice was in fine form when he hit the stage with his top notch band. Unlike Dale Watson, Wayne was all business as he took the crowd on a journey through his best known songs. “C Jam Blues” was a impressive instrumental boogie and tunes like “Walkin’ The Dog” and “Drinking Wine Spodiodie” were lively examples of Wayne’s melding of Western Swing, honky tonk and rockabilly. “Lowdown Blues” showcased his high and lonesome vocal power and “Slingin’ Rhythm” was a jumping dance number. Steel guitar player Rose Sinclair offered a flourish of twangy jubilation with “Don’t Go Driving While You’re High” and the whole band even chimed in on the chorus with the light-hearted “Mind Your Own Business”. Wayne got into some of his darker tunes with the acoustic strummed “No Loving Tonight” and the haunting ballad “I Killed Them Both”, making sure to take his set all over the musical map.

For a sold out show with two headliners, it was a surprise at the amount of people who didn’t stick around for Wayne “The Train” Hancock. Those that did, however, were treated to a tight set that found the band chugging along at full speed. His voice is one of the finest, bringing to mind real country music of a bygone era, which is why his live shows are not to be missed while he is still in his prime.

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