Texan-born Charley Crockett has lived a colourful life growing up in a trailer park in Los Fresnos before moving with his family to Dallas. He spent summers with his uncle in the French Quarter of New Orleans and in the late 00s he relocated to New York City where he busked and lived on the streets. Since then he’s lived in Northern California, France, Spain and Morocco before returning to Texas and settling in Dallas where he’s been pursuing a career in music. He released his debut album A Stolen Jewel in 2015 and he’s released an album a year a since, aside from 2018 when he released two! Crockett’s latest record is The Valley, which was released in the US back in September.
Recorded a week prior to having life-saving open-heart surgery, The Valley is a deeply personal album for Crockett that shares stories from his life. Never one to shy away from his ups and downs, Crockett channels all of his experience into the 15 songs included on the record. With a sound that’s much closer to the greats of Country music such as Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard, Crockett isn’t trying to chase the Nashville sound that’s dominating radio. Instead he’s forging his own path, staying true to himself and the legends that have inspired and shaped his music.
Borrowed Time opens the record and you’ll know from the opening minute whether this record is for you or not. The hand-clap driven 60s-sounding throwback perfectly sets the tone for an album steeped in personal revelations and good old-fashioned traditional Country music. Crockett addresses his unconventional life on The Way I’m Livin’ (Santa Rosa) where he sings about moving all over the Country in pursuit of his dreams. What could have made for quite a miserable song is transformed into a jolly, beat-driven slice of optimism where Crockett admits he has no regrets.
It’s that glass half-full approach that makes The Valley a joy to listen to. Crockett embodies the traditional Country storyteller with each of his songs getting to the heart of the genre. The title track tells the story of his family relocating to Dallas and sees Crockett sharing insights into the different members, uptempo Big Gold Mine is a seriously infectious uptempo number that sees Crockett trying to stay on the straight and narrow, and the bluesy If Not the Fool finds him frustrated with a woman who has too much control in their relationship.
One of the album’s highlights is the deceptively perky Excuse Me where Crockett sings about struggling with heartache. It’s an example of how he can tell an emotional and sad story that’s wrapped up in jolly instrumentation. The acoustic-led Maybelle is another standout where Crockett warns someone to stop running to him with all their problems admitting he can’t solve them.
Elsewhere on the record the banjo-driven 9LB Hammer is one of the more unusual moments. A traditional folk song, Crockett learned it during his time in New Orleans and it packs a punch because of its raw and simple arrangement. The swoonsome sound of Change Yo’ Mind finds Crockett trying to find a way to make someone stay and closing track Motel Time Again ends the record on a high note with Crockett’s travelling around catching up with him.
Charley Crockett is proof that there are artists outside of the Nashville mainstream that deserve your attention, and should be getting much more of a platform. Those that complain that traditional music has been lost, need to look outside of Music City and take their search to Texas. Crockett’s The Valley has so much to unpack and it reveals more with every listen. I’d advise you to give the record your time and thank me for the recommendation later.
Track list: 1. Borrowed Time 2. The Valley 3. 5 More Miles 4. Big Gold Mine 5. 10,000 Acres 6. The Way I’m Livin’ (Santa Rosa) 7. 7 Come 11 8. If Not the Fool 9. Excuse Me 10. It’s Nothing to Me 11. Maybelle 12. 9LB Hammer 13. River of Sorrow 14. Change Yo’ Mind 15. Motel Time Again Record label: Thirty Tigers Release date: 22nd November 2019 Buy The Valley