Dale Watson and Ray Benson have both managed storied careers without ever catering to country’s establishment, so it makes sense to see them find strength in each other on their new duets album Dale & Ray, due in January. Texas troubadour, Ameripolitan pioneer and consummate honky-tonker Watson, best known for songs like “Country My Ass,” and Benson, the Western-swinging Asleep at the Wheel frontman, tackle both originals and classic covers in a collection steeped heavily in both humor and tradition – with plenty of two-stepping along the way.
Dale & Ray‘s covers span many corners of the classic and outlaw country lexicon: Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard, the Louvin Brothers (“I Wish I Knew”), Buck Owens, Don Rich and Waylon Jennings, as well as original tracks like “Bus Breakdown,” “I’m Crying,” “For Crying Time Again,””Feelin’ Haggard” and “Dale and Ray,” a tribute to the twosome’s love for picking, drinking and toking. The duo also appropriately offers their version of a track off one of the genre’s most beloved duets LPs, Waylon and Willie: 1978’s “Write Your Own Songs,” a swinging kiss-off to record executives with a little too much constructive criticism in their back pockets.
The ever-prolific Watson most recently released his own tribute to the bands and artists that built him, Under the Influence, while Asleep at the Wheel’s Lone Star Christmas Night came out last month. Watson and Benson will support the January 6th release of Dale & Ray with a tour that begins in – where else? – Texas, and will hop on Sirius’ Outlaw Country Cruise in February.