Home Live Review Live Review: Charley Crockett @ Lincoln Theatre — 11/18/22

Live Review: Charley Crockett @ Lincoln Theatre — 11/18/22

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Charley Crockett

Charley Crockett (Photo by Brooks Burris)

The Lincoln Theatre is an elegant room, and it usually hosts the kind of shows whose audiences sit quietly through the show. That wasn’t the case when the prolific Charley Crockett recently graced the stage. This was a country and western show, attended by an energetic, even rowdy audience, and there was an abundance of hats: cowboy hats, trucker hats, ball caps. (Confession: I’m not totally clear on the difference between a trucker and a ball cap, don’t @ me.)

There were even a few folks visiting the area from Charley’s home state of Texas. He was born in San Benito, a town on the Mexican border, and he always mentions it was also the home of the great Latino country artist Freddy Fender. (I am especially partial to Fender’s later work with Doug Sahm in The Texas Tornados — check it out!) 

If Crockett’s last name looks familiar, that’s because he is a distant relative of frontiersman Davy Crockett. But he’s also a man of mixed heritage, and he didn’t grow up with any silver spoons. Raised by a single mother, he acquired his first guitar from a pawn shop. He spent the summers in New Orleans with an uncle who lived in the French Quarter, which was a formative experience that inspired him to wander about the country.

Things haven’t come easy to Charley, who ran afoul of the law before launching his music career. His involvement with marijuana earned him a conviction. And things haven’t been entirely easy since he started putting out music. In 2019, he underwent successful surgery for a congenital heart defect. The good news is that, following the surgery, Charley is healthier and more energetic than he’s been in a while.

Looking at Crockett’s output, you can’t say the man lacks energy. Since 2015, he’s released 11 albums, a mixtape and an EP. Allmusic describes him as “the hardest working man in Americana,” which is a fair description. He calls his music “gulf and western” rather “country and western.” His output includes the latter, but he’s also done a number of blues projects, and much of his music exists at the intersection of the two genres. Crockett is both an accomplished songwriter and a skilled interpreter of other’s compositions, with multiple releases dedicated to covering other artists.

It helped to be from Texas on Friday night, as Charley didn’t take the stage until a quarter to 10, making for a late night. On Nov. 18 at the Lincoln Theatre, he started the set with material from his latest LP, the critically well-received The Man From Waco. The album has a cinematic scope, and Charley and his band began with the brief instrumental that kicks off the record, “The Man From Waco Theme.” From there, he continued with the next several cuts, segueing into “Cowboy Candy,” followed by “The Time of The Cottonwood Trees” and “Just Like Honey.” 

Watch Charley Crockett perform “The Man from Waco” live at Farm Aid 2022 on YouTube:

Charley didn’t spend much time on banter between songs. He focused on what brough the audience in: the music, delivering more than 25 songs. He moved right along into more tracks from The Man From Waco, including the title cut and “Black Sedan.” He changed gears then, playing his first cover of the evening, George Jones’s “Between My House and Town,” which he recorded for his Jukebox Charley covers album. The album takes its title from a Johnny Paycheck song, which also made its way into the set.

Two additonal covers, Louis Armstrong’s “Basin Street Blues” and T-Bone Walker’s “Travelin Blues,” showed his range with different styles and genres. “Don’t Tell Me That” appeared on his tribute album, Lil’ G.L. Presents: 10 for Slim – Charley Crockett Sings James Hand. (Lil’ G. L. is the pseudonym he uses for his side projects; it references the obscure R&B singer G. L. Crockett.) The encore included two more covers: “Blackjack County Chain,” which herecorded on his “gothic country” album, Welcome To Hard Times, and a left-field choice, Bob Marley’s “I Shot The Sheriff,” which added yet more variety to the show.

Charley returned to Welcome To Hard Times later in the set, playing the title cut and closing the encore with “Paint It Blue.” He also performed the title track of another recent album — he’s had four out in the last two years — Music City U.S.A.. He also made his way back to The Man From Waco, playing “Odessa” and “Trinity River.” “The Valley” lent its title to his 2019 release, subtitled “And Other Autobiographical Tales” — he made the record just before undergoing the heart surgery I mentioned above.

Watch the official music video for “The Valley” by Charley Crockett on YouTube:

Other songs included “Name On A Bilboard,” “Jamestown Ferry,” “A Stolen Jewel,” “Round This World,” “I Need Your Love,” and “I’m Just A Clown.” The main set ended with “Goin’ Back To Texas.” Throughout, the audience was on their feet for Charley, who cut a colorful and dynamic figure on the stage, frequently dancing around. The set covered an enormous range of material, one you’re unlikely to see anywhere else. Charley is a diverse artist, and his “gulf and western” aesthetic ranges broadly; it’s what makes him so exciting. 

It’s encouraging to see a crowd of hard-core country fans, who were nearly all White, completely held rapt and celebrating the music of a multiracial artist. Through hard work and relentless production of high-quality material, Charley has managed to win an ever-increasing fanbase in an industry that isn’t often welcoming to diverse talents and voices. He’s a real one; he’s struggled and he’s been through it, and he’s come out of all it with more insight and he’s continually grown as an artist. It’s hard not to be skeptical about the music industry, and about the possibility of something truly new and original breaking through, but, watching Charley, it’s enough to make you believe again. 

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