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Then and Now

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Album Review

Soulful South Texas honky tonk singer Gene Watson never seemed to take his career all that seriously — even through his period of greatest success, when he was having a string of hit singles in the early '80s, he kept his day job as an auto body repairman — but since the early '70s, he's recorded more than his share of minor country classics. On his first album for Koch, a label that specializes in reviving the careers of faded old-school country singers, Watson has chosen 13 of his favorite songs to revisit. The results are impressive; rather than being a cynical "updating" of old hits with inappropriately modern production and arrangements, as so many country singers have done over the decades, Then & Now doesn't focus on Watson's best-known old songs. There's no "Love in the Hot Afternoon" or "Fourteen-Carat Mind" here, but every song Watson picked out is a gem. Producing the sessions himself and surrounding his weathered but not faded voice with a small group of traditional country musicians, Watson has created a timeless-sounding, largely acoustic set of tunes that could have been recorded at any point in the preceding 50 years of country music. Old-school gems like "If I'm a Fool for Leaving" (from the pen of Little Jimmy Dickens) sit next to more modern fare such as "You Could Know as Much," which someone like Travis Tritt could take into the charts tomorrow. An unpretentious, easygoing set of favorites, Then & Now is primarily for Watson's longtime fans, but those averse to the overly slick production of Urban Cowboy-era Nashville, which often marred Watson's older albums, will also appreciate hearing these songs in a more sympathetic setting.

Customer Reviews

Then And Now

I'm 73 and grew up listening to old-time country-western music and love it but not many albums include as many titles that I really like as much as this one does.


Born: October 11, 1943 in Palestine, TX

Genre: Country

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Though he can sing honky tonk, Gene Watson built a reputation for soulful ballads in the classic country tradition. Born one of seven children in Palestine, Texas, Watson married early and was working as an auto-body man when he began frequenting the clubs in Houston. He recorded for a few small-time regional labels like Wide World and Stoneway during the early '70s. Watson finally had success in 1974, when a steamy single for Resco -- "Love in the Hot Afternoon" -- was picked up for national distribution...
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Then and Now, Gene Watson
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