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Country singer Aaron Watson's happy to find himself somewhere between the road and the rodeo



Aaron Watson with Texas Renegade
10 p.m. Saturday
Wormy Dog Saloon
311 E. Sheridan

Soft-spoken country singer Aaron Watson is humble and thankful for everything he's earned during more than a decade of touring and releasing records. He's bought a couple of buses for himself and his crew, and his career has allowed him to provide for his family of five, who are never far from his thoughts.

He attempted to explain his place in the country-music firmament by reaching for a new song he's written with Chris LeDoux's guitarist, Mark Sissel, which will likely be the title track for his forthcoming seventh studio album.

"It starts off, 'Wild bucking horses and honky-tonking bars drives a man to chase gold buckles and guitars / I don't do it for the money, I don't do it for the fame / It's a long hard ride, still I do it just the same,'" Watson said. "The chorus goes, 'You won't see me on your TV, I'm seldom heard on your radio / But if you're looking you can find me, somewhere between the road and the rodeo.'"

Watson loves old-fashioned country, wrapping himself in a humility that suits his working-class tunes and bluecollar heart. He describes himself as an average artist with average looks, and credits "the Lord" for anything special he might do. A baseball player in college, he picked up the guitar while attending Abilene Christian University, and upon graduation, walked into the nearest honky-tonk.

He's been there ever since. His hard-working ethos and resilience have sustained the musician, even as he struggled to build a following, which makes his gratitude toward the audience that much more palpable.

"When you play your first six years of shows to nobody, you really appreciate your fans when they do start showing up," Watson said.

Cut from a similar cloth as Dwight Yoakam, Watson kneels at the altar of Willie, Waylon, Merle and Johnny. He said he doesn't mind being the guy people seek out "when they want to hear twin fiddles and steel guitar," and there's definitely a traditional ache to his songs, but Watson's no country fundamentalist, having proven himself unafraid of slipping in a little rock 'n' roll or even a few pop hooks.

Both are apparent in one of Watson's finest songs, a paean to those golden years and his first car, "3rd Gear and 17." Fiddle trills over a strong rock backbeat and the vocal melody sparkles. "Memories flash through my mind, like old faded photographs," he sings. "I still think about you and that red Malibu, and I just can't help but laugh."

"On every record, I try to have two to three singles. '3rd Gear' was one of them that I was very, very proud of," he said. "It's fun to play every night. One I don't care for is 'All-American Country Girl.' I can't stand that song, but when you've sold 50,000 ringtones from that song, and you have a bunch of little gals requesting it, you have to remember it's a job and the customer is always right, so I just shut my mouth and sing that song. But those are learning experiences. Like on this next record, if I don't like the song, I'm not putting it on there."

Watson's dedication to his audience makes him different. You'll often find the musician closing the venue down, signing autographs and posing for pictures. However tired he might be, he always has time for them.

"I want these people to know I appreciate them more than they'll ever know," he said. "If there's one thing I try to do better than any other artist, it's that I want my fans to know how much I love them, because it's very personal."

With the attention that greeted 2008's "Angels & Outlaws," which broke into the top 25 of Billboard's independent-record charts, Watson senses that his star might be on the rise. He's taking the time to get it right with his next album, whose release date has been pushed back a couple times.

"I want to make sure this one is perfect," he said. "I really want to give the fans something special. I'll take 100,000 dedicated fans that will support me the duration of my career over being a megastar for five years. I'll take my 100,000 fans and I'm running." "Chris Parker

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