Releasing a country album that hits the top of the charts is not an easy task, especially, when you are outside of Music Row’s comfort zone and get absolutely no mainstream airplay. In 2015, only Jason Isbell, Blackberry Smoke and Aaron Watson reached such heights under those not so ideal conditions.
While all three albums were celebrated by Red Dirt and Americana fans alike, it’s important to note that Aaron Watson’s The Underdog was both an anomaly and a well-deserved success story. The album (one of my Top 5 of 2015) was the first self-released, independently distributed and promoted album to hit No. 1 on Billboard’s Country charts.
That’s a big deal, especially for an artist who has been plying his trade and relentlessly touring since 1999. But that’s Aaron Watson…The underdog who everyone can’t help but root for.
Aaron Watson returns this week with a brand new single “Outta Style,” which blends his old school Red Dirt sensibilities with a modern country radio vibe. A part of me would be kind of bummed out by this new direction if the song wasn’t so darn infectious. From the opening guitar licks and handclaps it’s hard not to think that he was channeling an old Cars song. But once everything kicks in it’s evident that “Outta Style” is a modern country track equipped with fiddles and his indelible Texas twang.
Lyrically, “Outta Style” is a song that begs to be heard on modern country radio. Old cars and familiar destinations (Chevys and levees), classic song references aplenty, and (of course) a baby by his side…it’s evident that none of them will ever go “Outta Style.” The song breaks no new ground, but this nostalgia song might be his best shot at cracking country radio’s glass ceiling. One can’t fault him for reaching for the brass ring, especially after some of his contemporaries who left the Red Dirt scene (Granger Smith comes to mind) for so-called “greener pastures.”
I’m not saying “Outta Style” is going to lead Aaron Watson to an opening slot on a Florida Georgia Line tour, but with traditional-minded artists like William Michael Morgan topping the charts, this may be the ideal time for the 39-year-old Texan to break free from his underdog status and find his place atop the country radio charts. I’ll certainly be rooting for him. I always root for the underdog.