For a time, DALE WATSON had it all. The Austin transplant was one of the state's brightest rising stars, a honey-voiced honky-tonker with looks and talent to burn and a rapidly igniting career. It all derailed in 2000, when his girlfriend, on her way to one of Watson's gigs, died in a car accident. The singer fell apart, began a self-destructive binge, released a cathartic tribute album, and more or less drifted for the next few years. No longer. DREAMLAND (Koch) is not only a return to form but his finest set of songs to date. Produced by Ray Benson with a seamless Bakersfield sheen, Watson rolls out originals that already have the feel of future standards.

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