Notes From The Listening Room: Charley Crockett Live From The Ryman Auditorium

We are living in a new golden age of country music if you know where to look. In the past few years, the ascendency of artists such as Tyler Childers, Colter Wall, Margo Price, Vincent Neil Emerson, Sturgill Simpson, and Jason Isbell have altered the definition of what is possible for “country” artists in the 21st century to be. These are musicians who have made their bones out of the traditions of American folk, Country Western, Rockabilly, and blues from days long since passed. Their heroes are Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Townes Van Zandt, Buck Owens, Merle Haggard, and the like.

At the top of list, is a prolific artist from San Benito, Texas, Charley Crockett, who has been releasing albums since 2015 and has been on my radar since his 2018 album, ‘Lonesome as a Shadow’.  His most recent album is, ‘Live from the Ryman Auditorium’ on Son of Davy Records/Thirty Tigers, and it is a beautiful document and summation of his career up until this point.

For me, Charley Crockett is a bit of an outlier, even to the aforementioned list of country music outliers. He is part Hank Williams and part Spaghetti Western. His sound is both Buck Owens and southern fried soul. His rich baritone is Johnny Cash and William Bell. He is an amalgamation of folk, Cajun, blues, soul, country, and rockabilly. This is not to say there is any artifice in his work. Charley Crockett is Charley Crockett no matter what he is singing. He seems genuine and respectful of all the material he performs, whether it is a cover song or an original.

On this new release you get to hear every incarnation of Charley Crockett backed by his superb band, The Blue Drifters, playing to an enthusiastic and appreciative Ryman audience.

The performance is vibrant, electric, well recorded, and Charley Crockett and his band are in excellent form. The album is truly one big highlight, but the standout cuts among standouts are ‘Black Sedan’, ‘Jukebox Charley’, ‘Odessa’, ‘I feel For You’, and ‘Travelin Blues’. However, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that his version of Townes van Zandt’s, ‘Tecumseh Valley’ is worth the entire price of admission. The song is performed solo on his acoustic guitar and Charley’s deep empathic voice, and phrasing totally encapsulate the poignant sadness of the story of Caroline.

If you are interested in songs about the human condition (love, loss, confusion, beauty, exuberance, struggle) performed by a genuine musician, who seems to love the art of singing for singings sake and what connections can be made from that honesty and simplicity. I cannot recommend this album enough. Yes. It is a throwback to another time. It is a reckoning of sensibilities and aesthetics of a surreal past, from an artist who admitted that he was, “The man that time forgot”, but it is a welcome artifact in a world of complication, over wrought technology, and detached humanity.

Supplemental Notes: I stream music on my way to work and while I am at work, and I was very familiar with the album before I purchased the vinyl. It needs to be noted that the vinyl version sounds superior. The energy and the space itself is rendered with greater depth and nuance. I am proud to have this colored vinyl edition in my Oiled Oak Music Boxes.

Philip Doucet

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