His second album for the Grammy-winning label Red House Records, it is his first official recording with His Lonestars, his regular touring band. Known as consummate entertainers, the band delivers first-rate performances, capturing the energy and musicianship fans know they'll hear at every live show. Unlike the understated, stripped-down sound of Dale's previous release The Sun Sessions, his new album is full-on honky tonk with a driving rhythm section, tight electric guitar solos and the lonesome twang of pedal steel.
Recorded at Willie Nelson's Pedernales Studio in Austin, this top-notch recording features Dale on vocals and guitars, backed up by His Lonestars--Chris Crepps (upright bass), Mike Bernal (drums), Don Pawlak (pedal steel) and Danny Levin (piano, fiddle). Together this tightly knit band takes you on a rollicking ride back to your favorite dusty bar, a place where all heartache is forgotten.
Featuring 14 fresh country originals, El Rancho Azul is a portrait of a lone cowboy, dancing and drinking his way through love and heartbreak. Newly divorced himself, Dale sings about getting married, breaking up and moving on with authenticity and humor. Never one to wallow in his own sorrows, the album has a decidedly up-tempo feel with instantly singable songs. From the opening track "I Lie When I Drink" to the anthemic closer "Thanks to Tequila," the songs seem to be made for the very bars and clubs Dale plays.
"The crowd is what inspires me to write," Dale says. "And because we're doing 300 shows a year, I tend to write a lot."
One of the highlights of the album is "Daughter's Wedding Song," which was a Texas radio hit and was released as a digital single last fall. It is a poignant country ballad from the perspective of a father giving his daughter away on her wedding day.
"I'm often asked to recommend a song for the father/daughter dance," Dale says. "I usually say Merle Haggard's 'Farmer's Daughter.' The only problem is that, in the song, the mother is gone. So one day I told this couple I would write one special for the dance. While writing, I drew on my two daughters for inspiration and started crying halfway through it. I figured if it hit my heart strings, maybe it'll hit the heart strings of fathers and daughters everywhere."
In addition to "Daughter's Wedding Song," there are two other songs specifically intended for dancing--"Quick Quick Slow Slow" for the country two-step and "Quick Slow Slow" for waltzing. Whether hitting the dance floor or raising a glass with a heavy heart, this album provides the perfect soundtrack to the new year with songs about happy beginnings, sad endings and the surprises that lie in between.