Aaron Watson

Aaron Watson

Jack Ingram, Ryan Beaver

Sun · March 4, 2018

Doors: 7:00 pm / Show: 7:30 pm

$20 ADV $25 DOS

This event is all ages

Box Office is open Wednesday-Saturday 12-6pm and All Show Nights, 410-244-0057. Unless otherwise noted Maryland State's 10% Admissions and Amusement Tax is included in the ticket price

Aaron Watson
Aaron Watson
Aaron Watson isn’t interested in what someone else thinks he should do. But instead of getting lonely as he sidesteps expectations, he’s gaining followers––hundreds of thousands of them. Delivered with a warm smile and fueled by a wild spirit, Watson’s rebellion echoes the land that helped make him.

Watson remains strikingly similar to the people that still dot his native West Texas. They’re a rugged people, proud of home but humble and hardworking, the first to help a neighbor but also fiercely independent. And Watson is unquestionably one of them.

“I’ve always considered myself an anti-rock star,” Watson says, his drawl cracking slightly as he grins. “People don’t like me because I’m a rock star. People like me because I’m just like them.”

Throughout his 17-year career that spans a dozen albums and more than 2,500 shows throughout the U.S. and Europe, 39-year-old Watson has stubbornly and sincerely identified with the everyman––even as he’s proven to be the exception to the rule.
The latest evidence of Watson’s homespun singularity is Vaquero, an ambitious 16-song set of character-driven storytelling, level-headed cultural commentary, and love songs for grown- ups that promise to further solidify his status as one of today’s finest torch-bearers of real country music.

Vaquero is the follow-up to 2015’s The Underdog, an acclaimed collection that also made history. Watson was sitting at his kitchen table as his wife Kim scrambled eggs when he got the call: The Underdog had debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Country Albums Chart. It was the first time an independent, male country artist had ever outsold majors to premiere at the top spot. “We started jumping around and squealing like kids,” he says. “It was a beautiful moment because I got to share it with the girl who believed in me when I was broke and playing some pawnshop guitar. It is something I’ll never forget.” That momentous instant also arrived with a built-in challenge. “Once we dried the tears of joy, it hit me,” Watson says. “I had my work cut out for me for my next album.”

Determined, Watson committed to waking up every morning before the sun rose to write songs on that same old pawnshop guitar he scored 20 years ago. “I bet you I couldn’t get $50 for that guitar,” he says. “But it means the world to me.” He penned songs in the back of a bus on the highway, too, as the band spent the last two years playing more than 35 states and six countries.
The result is Vaquero, a bold album that confidently draws from Texas’ storied musical melting pot: dancehall shuffles, dustbowl narratives, Tejano, and more fill the record.

In writing the new album, Watson felt especially drawn to the idea of the vaquero, the original Spanish horseman that set the foundation for the North American cowboy, a solitary figure
with a legendary work ethic. Watson is a modern-day vaquero––he just gets up at 5 a.m. to wrangle songs instead of cattle. And while he won’t deny the pressure he felt following his last album’s success, outside barometers can’t compel him to change who he is or what he writes. Watson is Watson, chart-topping record or not.

“This is the first album I’ve ever made where if it’s the last album I ever make, I could be content with that,” Watson says of Vaquero.

One listen and it’s easy to understand why. Album opener “Texas Lullaby” pays lilting homage both to home and to the bravery of the young heroes fighting wars. Deep connections to place and family course throughout the record. Sing-along “These Old Boots Have Roots” celebrates new love by offering promises grounded in the honor and grace of past generations. A fiddle accents Watson’s lines playfully then escalates to a hopeful roar.
Romance is a central theme of the album, but Watson isn’t interested in adding to the steady stream of hook-up anthems coming out of Music Row. Watson’s love songs are celebrations of monogamy and the bonds that only time, mutual respect, and persistence can build. The swinging, fiddle-soaked “Take You Home Tonight” anticipates a steamy night in, while “Run Wild Horses” is a passionate ode to lovemaking featuring a standout vocal performance from Watson, whose laid-back croon lets loose and soars. Infectious first single “Outta Style” and shuffling “Be My Girl Tonight” both praise staying power and explore how to protect it.

Watson revels in another kind of love on the album closer, “Diamonds & Daughters.” Two years ago, his then four-year-old daughter asked him to write her a song for his next record. “I thought it sure would be special if I could write her a song right now that we could dance to at her wedding someday,” he says. That’s exactly what he did. A tender look at the past, present, and future, the song will undoubtedly touch every parent and daughter who hears it.

The title track is an accordion-fueled joy, buoyed by Watson’s delivery of life lessons courtesy of an old vaquero sitting alone at a bar. “Mariano’s Dream” and “Clear Isabel” are companion pieces, placed back-to-back to stunning cinematic effect. Plaintive instrumental “Mariano’s Dream” kicks off the experience, haunting and sad as an acoustic guitar carries listeners through a lush Tex-Mex soundscape. The song then segues into “Clear Isabel,” and listeners soon discover the Mariano named in the previous track is father to Isabel. A story of sacrifice and heartbreak, “Clear Isabel” imbues the souls who choose to cross a river in search of safety with the dignity and beauty they deserve. “It’s one of my favorite moments on the record,” Watson says. “I feel like if I could play Guy Clark that song, he’d smile.”

“They Don’t Make ‘Em Like They Used To” begins as warm nostalgia, and other comforts before intensifying into no mere stroll down memory lane, but an increasingly indignant rant, capturing the hurt and anger of a country that’s currently reeling politically and socially. “I think it might be the best song I’ve ever written,” Watson says.

Refusing to worry about charts or current trends, Watson hopes the main thing Vaquero accomplishes is bringing his growing legion of fans joy. And no matter what happens next, he is anchored and ready. “It doesn’t really matter whether I’m playing a dancehall in Texas or a stadium tour around the world, I’m just me,” he says. “I won’t change. I’m just too rooted in what I believe in. When you’ve played for such a long time to nobody, now that there’s somebody, you really don’t take that for granted.”
Jack Ingram
Jack Ingram
When Jack Ingram won the 2008 Academy of Country Music award for “Best New Male Vocalist,” thousands of people in the audience had to be smiling to themselves about that whole “new” thing. They knew the thirty-something, steel-eyed veteran accepting that trophy on that stage in Vegas had been rocking roadhouses, theaters and stadiums relentlessly since 1997, that he’d been celebrated by critics and fans of hard-core country music for more than a decade, and that as a Texas-born songwriter and performer, he’d been on the short list of next generation artists who could fill the boots of Lone Star legends like Willie and Waylon and the boys.

But the award did mean that Ingram, after trials and setbacks that would have buckled other artists, had at last matched the commercial success he’d always wanted with the integrity on which he’d always insisted. So he told the crowd with no small measure of pride and triumph that night that “big dreams and high hopes” can come true.

Now, as if to validate and amplify that truth, Ingram remains in the forefront of country music with the album Big Dreams & High Hopes, the seventh studio disc of his career and his third for Nashville maverick indie label Big Machine Records. Its eleven tracks range through the many facets of Ingram’s unique take on country music and songwriting. There’s the textured and contemplative “Seeing Stars” sung in ethereal tandem with Patty Griffin. You’ll find a couple of superb roots rocking country songs Jack wrote with compadre and mentor Radney Foster. And you’ve probably already heard the swimming hole party anthem “Barefoot and Crazy” which quickly became a radio smash and a soundtrack for the hot summer of 2009.

Ingram says the album’s intimate title track came from a conversation “about lasting through a bunch of BS and finding success at the time I did. At one point I said, ‘Well, I had my guitar and big dreams and high hopes,’ and that just kind of rung a bell. The song that came out of that basically talks about having this wanderlust to go out and take my music on the road like my heroes did – dreaming about it and chasing it down.”
That journey began in Houston, Texas, where Ingram grew up. His first stage experience came not through music but a drama class he took to fulfill a requirement his senior year of high school. It wasn’t his calling, but it was a rush.

“All of a sudden there was this pressure and this element of having to deliver right now in front of a crowd, and if you don’t you fall on your ass,” he says. “And that got me.” During college at Southern Methodist University, he applied that challenge to music for the first time, starting at an open mic night with two Willie Nelson songs learned out of a song book and one original tune.

It didn’t take long for the charismatic Ingram and his Beat Up Ford Band to pack the bars of Dallas and Houston, but he was acutely aware that having come of age idolizing icons like Billy Joe Shaver, Jerry Jeff Walker, Guy Clark and Robert Earl Keen, that he had a lot of learning and growing to do.

“I knew what I was doing was not sounding the way it was sounding in my head, so I was very unsatisfied,” Ingram remembers. “My heroes were the best.”

So with his vision clearly set, Ingram gradually built a reputation as a smart songwriter and a can’t-miss live performer. Nashville’s Rising Tide label signed him, re-issuing his first two independent albums, a live disc, and 1997’s Livin’ or Dyin’. When Rising Tide went out of business, Ingram found a home at Sony’s boutique Lucky Dog label, where, in what became something of a pattern, he was admired by music writers and country connoisseurs but he struggled to connect on country radio. He also felt unfairly typecast as a member of an “insurgent” country movement.
“Coming from Texas and me trying to have my own identity may have come off as anti-establishment or Texas versus Nashville. But that was a misconception. I wanted to be right where I am right now. Twenty in the game, on the big stage.”

But things had to get worse before they got better.

“I lost my record deal with Sony,” he says. “I lost a management deal. I was in this place where I didn’t know what was going to happen. I had a kid who was one year old. I really didn’t have a career to speak of at the time.”
And from that difficult place, he wrote “In The Corner,” one of the best songs of his career, an “open letter” he calls it now, to a music industry where he’d sought only support in being who he was rather than someone he wasn’t.

Yeah, he’s just another young cynic
We get them all the time.
If he just knew how to channel
All that anger he’d be fine”.

So I sit with all these wishes and dreams dying on the vine
Knowing I could make you happy for a minute with a lie.

The song is the final track on Big Dreams & High Hopes, and those lyrics make what happened next all the more remarkable. Jack Ingram met Scott Borchetta, a veteran country record promoter who’d launched his own label Big Machine Records. In an industry and genre where outsider labels have had an almost impossible time building hit-making careers, Big Machine took a chance on Jack, and equally Jack took a chance on one of those independent label. The new label worked with more dedication and patience than Ingram had ever seen to find the song that would break through. It was “Wherever You Are,” the first single of his career to reach Number One.

“I spent YEARS trying to figure out what I was doing wrong,” says Ingram. “Why is this not working? How do I need to change? And finally you get with the right people, and you go, ‘I don’t need to change anything. I just need to show up and do the job.’ All I had to do was be myself.”
The album Wherever You Are, a mostly live project, was followed by 2008’s This Is It and now Big Dreams & High Hopes. Already the new album has produced the top twenty single “That’s A Man.” And “Barefoot and Crazy” appears poised for a whole lot more airplay. But this is far more than a repository of a few hit singles. The album kicks off with “Free,” a breezy and uplifting embrace of the finer non-material things in life. Ingram worked with Jeffrey Steele and Tom Hambridge to write the swaying and satisfying “Not Giving Up On Me” with its large chorus drenched with steel guitar and gratitude to a supportive lover. And people will surely talk about Ingram’s intense, refreshed version of “Barbie Doll,” probably the most popular song from his live show, recorded here in a fantastic, wise-ass duet with Dierks Bentley.

In a time when the music industry tries so hard to jam new artists up to the top of the charts before they’re ready, only to so often see them plummet back to earth, Ingram’s rise has been slow and steady, fueled by dreams and hopes for sure, but more substantially by high standards and the ambition for a career measured in decades and influence rather than chart position. He’s in the best place he’s ever been and it’s clear from a few listens to Big Dreams & High Hopes that confidence is bolstering his artistry.
Ryan Beaver
Ryan Beaver
“This album is titled Rx because these songs are like medicine to me,” Ryan Beaver says of his consistently compelling new release. “Making this record was so much fun, and so therapeutic. These songs serve as a prescription for getting excited about music and life. And if they’re like medicine for me, maybe they will be for the listeners.”

Indeed, the 12-song set, the Texas-bred, Nashville-based singer-songwriter’s third longplayer, offers a potent mix of haunting emotional depth and resonant melodic craft. His insightful, infectious compositions and deeply expressive voice honor the artist’s deep country roots, while transcending the genre’s stylistic boundaries to incorporate a widescreen sense of drama that’s anchored by his lifelong love for raw, gritty rock ‘n’ roll.

The resulting album, which the artist co-produced with longtime compadres Jeremy Spillman and Ryan Tyndell, makes it abundantly clear why Ryan Beaver has already been widely acclaimed as an artist to watch. Rolling Stone recently named him one of “10 New Country Artists You Need to Know,” and he’s received public acclaim from the likes of Miranda Lambert, Ashley Monroe, Maren Morris, Kacey Musgraves and Lee Ann Womack, with whom he’s toured as an opening act.

The surging, anthem “Dark,” Rx’s opening track and emotional centerpiece, makes it clear why Beaver’s work has generated so much excitement. A startlingly direct declaration of emotional perseverance, it’s a powerful anthem of hope and survival in the face of loss and disappointment. A comparable level of emotional gravity powers such memorable tracks as “Rum & Roses,” “Habit,” “When This World Ends” and the stirring album-closer “If I Had A Horse.” The artist reveals a more humorous attitude on “Fast” and “Vegas,” and pays tribute to one of his creative role models with “Kristofferson,” which he prefaces with a section of Kris Kristofferson’s own “Jesus Was A Capricorn.”

“This is my third album, but in a lot of ways it feels like it’s my first,” Ryan states, adding, “I feel like I’ve reached the point where I know what a good song is, and I have a clear vision of what I want to accomplish.”

Ryan Beaver’s forthright, personally-charged songwriting reflects the lessons learned over a lifelong creative journey. Growing up in the small Texas town of Emory, he began writing songs early in life, and began performing his compositions in local venues when he was just 17.

“Music opened up another world for me,” Ryan recalls. “I played in bands, on drums and guitar and piano, but I could never shake the songwriting thing. I didn’t sing for awhile, because I was kind of shy as a teenager, but I always found comfort in being able to write a song. Writing songs was my way of getting the world to make sense.

“I grew up in this really small town, 70 miles east of Dallas-Fort Worth, 1500 people,” he explains. “There’s not a lot to do out there, so you had to be creative about how you spent your time. We had this amazing little scene pop up, where you could actually play your own songs. I was a trainwreck at first, but I worked at it and I got better.”

He moved to Austin and became a part of that city’s fertile music scene, and then relocated to Nashville, where he has immersed himself in Music City’s songwriting community and continued to hone his skills.

“I’ve done hundreds and hundreds of shows, primarily in the Southwest, but eventually I realized that I needed to go do this for real and build this thing. I loved Austin, but I knew that the best singers, players and writers are in Nashville, and that the bar was way higher there. It was the best thing for me. I wrote more songs and sang more in a year in Nashville than I would have in five years anywhere else. And the more you do it, the better you get at it.”

Beaver applied that pragmatic attitude to recording Rx, which he recorded on his own dime, without the benefit of record-company financing. The project was set into motion, he says, when he wrote “Dark” while mourning the deaths of his grandfather and a close friend.

“Writing ‘Dark’ really shook me, and really woke me up,” he says. “I think I needed to hear those words more than anybody, and I realized that if I felt that way, maybe others would. I got super excited, and I thought, ‘OK, I think I’m onto something here, this is a path that I want to take.’

“I’m a fan of all kinds of music, and I think that’s reflected on the album,” he continues. “We talked a lot about what we felt was missing from country music now and how we could bring some of that back, and at the same time, how could we push the envelope a little. That thought was always there: let’s see if we can take this genre to somewhere it hasn’t been before. But my main goal was to make a record that I would want to hear, with well-crafted songs that said something.

“Singing ‘I ain’t afraid of the dark’ is as simple as it gets, and anybody can understand what it means. That’s me trying to be an adult and trying to figure out how to deal with the real world. It’s really simple, but getting yourself to the point where you’re able to express things that simply is a challenge, and it something I aspire to. That’s what Hank Williams did, and it’s what Tom Petty does: express these complicated emotions in everyday language that everyone can understand. That’s my goal.”
Venue Information:
Baltimore Soundstage
124 Market Place
Baltimore, Maryland, 21202