Former Old Crow Member Willie Watson Readies His Next Chapter

Willie Watson was one of the most revered members of Old Crow Medicine Show for around 13 years, including during the band’s big O.C.M.S. / “Wagon Wheel” moment in 2004. But he left in 2011 to find a more dedicated form of folk revival. This resulted in his two solo albums, 2014’s Folk Singer Vol. 1, and 2017’s Folk Singer Vol. 2, both of which saw the dynamic and impressive performer revitalizing songs from the classic American songbook.

But over the last many years, it’s been hard to keep up with Willie Watson. At times his live performances were sparse, while his recorded output ceased altogether. He did appear on Old Crow Medicine Show’s 2023 album Jubilee on a song called “Miles Away.” Turns out that was a precursor to a big Willie Watson return with a new song out now called “Real Love,” and a new self-titled album coming on September 13th via Little Operation Records, distributed by Thirty Tigers.

Unlike his previous solo albums, Willie Watson will not be interpreting old standards on this one. When Saving Country Music saw Watson recently at the Big Ponderoo Festival in Oregon, he said from the stage that he spend the first 40 years of his life knowing who he was and what he wanted to do, which was sing old folk songs. But now he really doesn’t know who he is. But what he does know is that now he wants to sing original material.

“After 30 years of playing music professionally, this is my debut album,” Willie Watson says. “This record is me beating the devil, or the story of what finally did it anyway. I didn’t make any specific pact or anything but I know we’ve been tangled up most of my life. Now that he’s gone I can love myself again.”

Along for the ride is an impressive list of musicians that includes Gabe Witcher (Punch Brothers) and Kenneth Pattengale (Milk Carton Kids) as producers, Paul Kowert also of the Punch Brothers on bass, Benmont Tench on keys, and Sami Braman of The Onlies on fiddle. The new song “Real Love” is about Willie Watson’s wife.

Willie Watson hasn’t been completely absent from the public over the last few years. He appeared rather prominently in the 2018 film The Ballad of Buster Scruggs. Watson was cast in the film as “The Kid,” and sang the song “When a Cowboy Trades His Spurs for Wings” written by Gillian Welch and David Rawlings. At the Big Ponderoo fest, Watson said when he got a phone call to be in a film, he promptly replied “no.” When they told him it was a Coen Brothers film, he promptly replied, “yes.”

Willie Watson is now available for pre-save and pre-order.

Track List:

  1. Slim and the Devil 
  2. Real Love
  3. Already Gone
  4. Sad Song
  5. One to Fall
  6. Harris and the Mare
  7. Mole in the Ground
  8. Play It One More Time
  9. Reap ’em in the Valley 
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