We gave it a B
Gene Watson, a Houston body-shop worker who traded his blowtorch for a country music career 20 years ago, has always labored under an identity problem: He had the bad luck to come along when Moe Bandy — a leading ’70s hitmaker — was scoring big with music in a very similar style. Now, on his fourth major label, Watson has decided to change the pace. The title track of At Last is a heavily orchestrated romantic ballad, a sort of once-around-the-cotillion song, the kind that would have been big back in 1959. From there, he tries a variety of fare, from the semiautobiographical ”You Can’t Get Arrested in Nashville” to a jaunty redneck number, ”The Workin’ End of a Hoe.” Watson has an affecting, supple voice, particularly in his upper register, but he’s always relied on good songs to see him through. This surprising set serves him well.