Personnel: Aaron Watson (vocals); Pat McGrath (acoustic guitar, bouzouki); Rob McNelley (electric guitar); Russ Pahl (steel guitar, autoharp); Marshall Altman (banjo, percussion, background vocals); Glen Duncan (bouzouki, mandolin, fiddle); Jordan Lawson, Stuart Duncan (fiddle); Tony Harrell (accordion, Hammond b-3 organ, Wurlitzer organ); Jerry Roe (drums, percussion); Heather Morgan (background vocals).
Audio Mixer: Justin Niebank.
Recording information: Blackbird, Studio D Nashville, TN; The Galt Line, Nashville, TN.
Photographers: Joseph Llanes; Lindsey Cotton.
Aaron Watson opens Vaquero -- his 11th set of original material, but his third since he started making waves on the Billboard charts -- with "Texas Lullaby," a salute to the Lone Star State he calls home. Watson is a proud Texan -- it's very rare to find a Texan who isn't -- but Vaquero navigates the territory between tradition and modernity, sounding strong and open, never making concessions to pop but never adhering to a calcified notion of country, either. Watson is straightforward but nimble, happy to play with familiar sounds -- Vaquero is filled with songs that recall everyone from George Jones to George Strait -- but it always swings back to the present. Often, this materializes through tales of commitment -- much of the album is about being in a long-term relationship -- and that, combined with his allegiance to old-fashioned music, conveys how Watson is devoted to building upon the past, and that is ultimately what gives Vaquero its kick: Aaron Watson is an old-fashioned singer/songwriter, but he applies his traditional values to the present, and that's what makes Vaquero seem fresh. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine