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Country traditionalist Dale Watson to perform free show Thursday at St. Paul Square

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Dale Watson is playing a free concert at St. Paul Square on Thursday. - COURTESY OF DALE WATSON
  • Courtesy of Dale Watson
  • Dale Watson is playing a free concert at St. Paul Square on Thursday.
One of the most prolific and revered revivalists of real-deal country music is rolling into San Antonio for a free show Thursday.

Singer-guitarist Dale Watson and his band will perform on May 6 in St. Paul Square as part of the entertainment district’s open-air concert series.

A staunch adherent to old-style honky tonk and the Bakersfield sound pioneered in the 1950s by Buck Owens and Merle Haggard, Watson has spent more than three decades carving out a career as a Nashville outsider. His dedication to independence and authenticity over commercial success helped lay the foundation for the alt-country movement.

More than three years ago, Watson left his longtime home base of Austin, saying the fast-growing tech mecca had “sold itself,” much to the detriment of the artists and musicians who can no longer afford to live there.

“I make a good living,” Watson told the Texas Standard radio show. “But the city has really made it hard to make a living and live in the city limits.”

Since his 2018 relocation to Memphis, Tennessee, Watson took over and renovated a classic venue called Hernando’s Hide-A-Way and set up his own recording facility called Wat-Sun Studios not far from Graceland.

The singer’s 2019 album Call Me Lucky landed on a number of critics’ Best Of lists for the year. Reviewers noted that songs like the swinging “Tupelo Mississippi & a 57 Fairlane” made it sound like he was rejuvenated by his new surroundings.

On his February 2021 album Dale Watson Presents the Memphians, Watson let his guitar do the talking and delivered 10 retro-style instrumental tracks. Recorded over two days during the coronavirus lockdown, the album expands on country twang with flourishes of surf rock, blues and jazz.

A performer seasoned by a life on the road, Watson’s live shows are energetic affairs. He keeps humorous stage banter flowing between songs that run the gamut from cry-in-your-beer laments to truckin’ tunes, all delivered by a crack band.

Watson’s website shows a packed itinerary that’s keeping him gigging through Texas and the Midwest as the nation slowly emerges from nearly a year of COVID-forced isolation. That’s good reason to expect the singer will be practiced and ready, not to mention buoyed by getting back to doing what he’s best at.

Organizers of the St. Paul square show recommend music fans enter at Lilly’s Greenville, 1160 E. Commerce St. Attendees who want table seating at adjoining restaurants should make reservations at either Cuishe Cocina Mexicana or Toro Kitchen and Bar, or at Lilly’s if you’re just looking for cocktails.

Free, 8 p.m. Thursday, May 6, St. Paul Square, 1160 E. Commerce St., Suite 200, stpaulsq.com.

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