For the many disparate artists working to revive the golden era of country, one thing tends to set them apart from their role models: They approach this vintage music with a hip, modern sensibility. Not DALE WATSON. Though he didn’t start recording until 1990, he seems to have a direct lineage to a music that hasn’t existed for decades. He has bought into the whole package—not just the classic sound of the fifties and six- ties but also the same unabashed hokeyness that typified the work of everyone from Buck Owens to Johnny Cash. In fact, Cash looms large in FROM THE CRADLE TO THE GRAVE (Hyena). Watson was lured out of a brief retirement in 2006 (he moved away from Austin, though he’s already back) by the offer to record in a Tennessee cabin that once belonged to the Man in Black, and from the outset of this CD (at 27 minutes, it’s hard to call it an album), he channels the common-man melodrama of the Cash oeuvre. Yet while Watson travels a well-worn path, he doesn’t recycle. Every one of his songs rings true. He might be a throwback, but these days, he’s as good as we’ve got.