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Talk about paying your dues -- Dale Watson spent his childhood playing west Tennessee truck stops and honky-tonks with his old man. In recent years, Watson has done his own truck-stop tours, a maverick move even at this late date. But that's him in a nutshell, always mining country music's core topics -- booze, breakups, family, work, and Texas -- but in a left-of-center fashion that keeps him not so much on the fringes of the mainstream as about a three-day drive away from it. On BLESSED OR DAMNED, Watson's assertive baritone works its magic on "Honkiest Tonkiest Beer Joint" and "A Real Country Song," the latter a plea to deejays to play something -- anything -- by "Loretta...Conway...Haggard or...Jones." The fact that they won't is criminal, and so is the fact that they won't play Dale Watson either. He is, after all, one of the honkiest, tonkiest singers you'll ever hear.