Dale Watson is getting past his demons

By PAULETTE FLOWERS Published:

By his own admission, country artist Dale Watson "went crazy" in 2002. He freely admits that his breakdown started on Sept. 15, 2000, when his girlfriend, Terri Herbert, was killed in an accident after falling asleep at the wheel of her vehicle while she was driving to meet Dale in Houston. In fact, the album he released in July of 2001, "Every Song I Write Is for You," was dedicated to Terri and was part of his mourning process. "It will probably always be my favorite album," he says.

Things got so bad that Dale was "hearing voices" and eventually committed himself to the Austin (Texas) State Hospital because he was having trouble telling what was actually happening and what he was just imagining. Thankfully, Dale has made a full recovery, and, in what is typical of all his life experiences, he's turned his breakdown into art.

See, Hollywood director Zalman King ("9 1/2 Weeks," "Red Shoe Diaries") had come to Austin in 2003 to find an actor to play the lead role in a movie about a country singer battling demons, and he ended up finding the real thing. Instead of making the intended "Austin Angel," a Burnt Orange production that was put on the back burner, King made "Crazy Again," an unflinching documentary about Watson that premiered at Austin's South by Southwest Festival earlier this month.

"I Wish I Was Crazy Again" just happens to be one of the standout tracks from Dale's brand-new album, "Whiskey or God." Other tracks from the album are featured throughout the documentary. As for "Austin Angel," that film will start shooting soon in Austin and will star Dale as a country singer who sells his soul to the devil in order to save his daughter, with David Carradine playing the devil himself.

As for the album itself, it's filled with the vintage, hard-core country Dale is known for. As usual, he wrote all the songs, and they are, in fact, songs he wrote some time ago and has been performing in his live shows for years. Besides "I Wish I Was Crazy Again," other surefire hits include "No Help Wanted," "Tequila and Teardrops" and the title cut.

Of course, you'll probably have to tune in to an "alt-country" radio station to hear these tunes. But Dale has made his peace with being labeled "alt- country." "It just means you make real country music, as opposed to the mechanical, pop stuff that the Nashville scene comes up with," he says.

And "Whiskey and God" IS real country music.

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