If the ghost of Johnny Cash hovers throughout the grooves of From the Cradle to the Grave, that's not coincidental. The recording was made in a Hendersonville, TN, cabin once owned by the late country icon -- all the better to showcase Dale Watson's deep, Cash-like baritone -- and the no-frills settings Watson brings to the songs bear more than a faint echo of the Man in Black: on "Hollywood Hillbilly" that might as well be the minimalist Tennessee Three twanging behind the singer, and ol' JC even gets name-checked in the lyrics (as do Willie, Hank, and Lefty, but still...). Then there's the story that introduces the record: "Justice for All," a tale of righteousness fighting the good fight against vengeance and coming up short. But to peg From the Cradle to the Grave as a Cash tribute and nothing more would be to sell it short. The Austinite's been at it for a long time himself, and his renegade credentials are well established and verifiable. The song material here may ring familiar -- "Yellow Mama," is, after all, an ode to an electric chair -- and so may the voice, but Watson puts enough of his own personality into his delivery that the album is never in danger of being saddled with a copycat tag. Watson can't help it if he's got good taste in influences, but he's sharp and smart enough to pay his respects while also shaking free of them, and he leaves no doubt whose album this is.
AllMusic Review by Jeff Tamarkin