Country singer Gene Watson released his second gospel album, “My Gospel Roots,” last year in part as a tribute to the parents who brought him up in the music-rich environment of a hymn-singing church. He didn’t realize it would provide renewed attention to his long-running career.
“I’ve had three No. 1s on the Christian country charts,” he said in a recent phone interview while driving back to his Houston area home. “I’m thrilled about that.”
Thrilled enough that he’s collecting songs for a new album — “some a wee bit different,” he said — that he hopes to record and release. Add to that a regular schedule of performances, even in his 75th year, and Watson has plenty to sing about. “I’m busy, busy, busy,” he said. “Traditional country music is alive and well.”
Watson and his five-piece Farewell Party Band bring that traditional country sound, one that has fueled some 40 albums for the Palestine native, back to the Waco Hippodrome for a Friday night show.
That sound, and Watson’s voice, made him a star in the 1970s and 1980s with such hits as “Farewell Party,” “Love in the Hot Afternoon” and “Fourteen Carat Mind,” building him a fan base that’s still loyal today. “These people will look you up and come out to your show. It’s nothing for fans to drive 100 to 200 miles to come see us,” he said.
The album he’s planning will show another part of Watson’s success: his ability to pick songs that fit him. “I’m not much of a writer. I do most of my writing in the studio,” he said, adding that he hoards songs that might work with him and regularly pulls out material from that stash. “I have a talent I’m proud of: the talent to pick a good Gene Watson song.”
The ear and voice have stayed true for the Texas Music Hall of Fame member, even if he has to watch his schedule to get the rest he needs. “10 or 15 years ago, I could perform four nights in a row, but now my voice is the first thing to go,” he said.