Aaron Watson is one of those names I heard about in Texas country, but always forgot to look up. When Megan approached me about reviewing this album, I figured that now was as good a time as any to check out his music. Therefore, when I sat down to listen to Vaquero, I wasn’t sure quite what to expect.
This album has great instrumentation. I realized that right off the bat when “Texas Lullaby” started playing with some quite well-done accordion. Not all the songs feature this instrument, but I love it wherever it is played. There is fiddle and steel guitar all throughout this album, so a traditional country fan listening to this will not be disappointed anywhere instrumentation-wise. I will say, though, that there are a few songs where the instruments needlessly extend things, but that’s just my personal opinion.
For me, it’s the lyrics that bring this album down. Not on every song, but there are many times throughout this album where words and phrases are repeated, and the same subject matter is approached in three different songs. It began to get tiring after a while.
This is not to say that the album is bad. The aforementioned “Texas Lullaby” is a great opening song. Granted, the references to Texas did get a bit over-the-top for my taste, but the song itself is good. It tells the story of a soldier from Texas(whom they called Texas), and how he loved his home state. He fell in love with a girl, and all he wanted to do was come home from the war, live his life in Texas, and not have anyone mourn for him when he died and was buried in Texas. I like it quite a lot.
After this song is where things take a turn. “Take You Home Tonight” is about a man just wanting to spend some quality time at home with the woman he loves. “These Old Boots Have Roots” talks about how the man in the song has deep ties to his town. It would have been much better had the phrase “these old boots have roots” not been repeated so much. Plus, the song just seems a bit haphazardly put together with lots of references made, but nothing being followed through. “Be My Girl Tonight” is about wanting to break down barriers between a couple by spending some time being physically intimate. Personally, I think this is a bit too close to the theme of “Take You Home Tonight”, although the former is about getting back to a good place in the relationship. The latter is more of a feel-good song. “They Don’t Make em Like They Used To” is, of course, a nostalgic song. It discusses how the world has changed over time, and wonders if people of the future will say the same about people of our time.
“Vaquero” is one of my favorites off of this album. In this song, a Mexican cowboy tells the main character stories about his life in exchange for shots of tequila. I really like the instrumentation of this song, especially since it is one of the ones that featured an accordion. “Outta Style” is a love song about two people in love still feeling the same after many years. “Run Wild Horses” is yet another love song that is about the passion the main character of the song feels for his partner. This makes three different songs in the first half of the album that are all about physical passion in some form, so by this point, it gets a bit old.
The instrumental prelude of “Mariano’s Dream” follows “Run Wild Horses.” Mariano is the father of the girl the next song, “Clear Isabel”, focuses on. “Clear Isabel” is my favorite song off of this album, I think. It is a very timely song about Isabel and her father trying to escape the cartels of Mexico, whom Mariano had got on the wrong side of as he was a lawman. To escape them, the two flee to America where they work for the parents of the main character of the song. Isabel ends up married to him, while Mariano gets deported. They receive a green card for Mariano, but it comes two years too late because Mariano had gotten shot. I have a huge weakness for story songs, and this is a great example of one.
“Big Love in a Small Town” celebrates the fact that the main character found love and it is in his tiny hometown. It may be behind the times to some, but to him, that’s a good thing. I really like “One Two Step at a Time”. It has great honkytonk traditional instrumentation, and the lyrics focus on a girl who isn’t into anything fancy. She just wants some homemade tamales, a Texas bar, and a two step. “Amen Amigo” is a bit forgettable. It is about a man just wanting to go back to the days when he, his friends, and his girl went down to Mexico and partied all night. “The Arrow” isn’t a bad song, but it is very vague. It’s a song in which the singer gives advice about keeping to your dreams and hopes, and not letting anything change you. While those themes are great, there is no story behind it, which makes me not connect to the song emotionally. “Rolling Stone” tells the tale of a singer who loves his wife, but can’t stay home. He has to be out on the road, chasing his dreams of being a musician. However, he always thinks of her. This is a good song for someone like Aaron Watson to sing. The final song “Diamonds & Daughters” tells of a father’s love for his daughter, and how he’d always be there for her even after she gets married. Although she is all grown up, she’s still his little girl. I quite like this one.
Overall, this is not a bad album. It is very long at 16 songs, and many of these tracks are overextended with instrumental parts, or repeated choruses. If even a few of these songs had been taken away, I think it would have made for a better album as a whole. However, there are some really good songs here, too. As I said, “Clear Isabel”, “Vaquero”, and “Diamonds & Daughters” are quite good. If you’re looking for music with lots of fiddle, steel guitar, and even some accordion, this album has all of it. With all that in mind, it’s not something I love but I don’t regret listening to it, either.