Aaron Watson made Texas, traditional and indie country fans so proud this week by topping the charts with The Underdog an earnest album mostly absent of the cliches that have bogged down the genre in recent years. But Watson has been around since 2002 and has at times shown flashes of brilliance brighter than anything Nashville could produce. What’s consistent is that in his lyrics, family values trump party mantras and women are talked about as true lovers and heartaches but not as hookups or arm candy. Here’s my Top 10 Aaron Watson Songs, with a bit of emphasis put on the new stuff. It’s just his best album yet.
10. Reckless (2004)
Reckless both laments and celebrates an old teenage relationship, though it seems to lean more heavily in the direction of celebration. After all, Aaron says he’d take the ride again for the thrill of it.
9. That Look (2014)
Contemporary country, but for adults. That Look describes a committed relationship that’s good “but even better when she gets that look.” Sinatra and wine are used in seduction, though, and both people are involved in making the other happy, something that shouldn’t be as refreshing to hear as it is.
8. Barbed Wire Halo (2008)
Aaron pays tribute to heroes in other songs, but none are so richly realized as the character in Barbed Wire Halo. A widower, soldier and tattooed man who treated his congregation as family dies in this song infused with hymns.
7. Fast Cars Slow Kisses (2010)
A country song about two offbeat traditionalists who fall in love on the Internet of all places. The title, which is what the woman wrote on her dating profile as two of their favorite things, is a decent play on words. A relatable love song for those who feel different than those around them.
6. July in Cheyenne (Song For Lane’s Momma) (2012)
The best of Aaron’s rodeo songs. Most of the details surrounding a rodeo star’s death are left out in favor of the details of that rodeo star’s life and his family’s feelings. The ending, which reminds his mother that the next time she sees him he won’t be dying like the last time she did, is absolutely devastating in the best way possible.
5. The Road (2010)
Aaron singes as a road. Or is it life? Either way, it the song serves as a reminder not to blame circumstances for actions but to instead take some responsibility for them. Life certainly isn’t that cut and dry, but it’s nicely done and true in more instances than not.
4. Off The Record (2002)
A painful confession of love in the midst of a divorce. Aaron was in his 20s when he sang it, though he clearly appreciated the need for a song about more complicated relationships. He does a good job at capturing the frustration that comes along with lawyers and change.
3. The Prayer (2015)
This song evokes the image of Johnny Cash in the midst of a drug overdose praying for salvation. That’s about as bold as it gets in the country world. Luckily for fans, the payoff is huge, if a little heavy. Contains the excellent line: “Lord, I am just a man, I cannot be the king of me.”
2. Shut Up and Dance (2002)
A couple tries to reconnect after experiencing strife, with Aaron singing from the point of view of the one attempting to stoke the flame. There’s no clear end to the story, but I’d like to think the la-di-das at the end are what they’re dancing along to.
1. Bluebonnets (Julia’s Song) (2015)
To experience the loss of a child like Aaron did is almost unimaginable. That he was able to turn it all into a beautiful, almost uplifting song evoking his faith is unbelievable. Bluebonnets reminds us to cherish every moment and to appreciate something so transient as life by packing light and loving heavy. It’s also the best look at why AW is so lovable.