What does it mean to record country songs today that sound deceptively real, as if they could have been recorded sixty or seventy years ago?
There are dozens of them in Charley Crockett's work, and some would find it difficult to date them straight away.
For example “Are We Lonesome Yet?”: A speaking ashtray full of cigarette butts asks the singer, who looks into him, and the music implicitly answered the question with the first bar.
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A voice with an echo of the distant past, a chickaboom rhythm and a good portion of pedal steel lubricating oil allow the listener to slide gently into the times of Hank Williams, which Crockett, who was born in 1984, more than thirty years after his death, also into his conjured up external staging, from hat to belt buckle.
Another song fits in seamlessly between old country classics like "The End of the World" and "Make the World Go Away".
Crockett now sings: "Scuse me please, but the world just broke my heart."
So what does that say? Apparently irony does not play a role, because there is no break in the staging. The whole appearance is so well composed, right through to the album design in retro design and references to the “full dimensional sound”, that one would almost like to speak of a madness. But there is a method to this madness. It is a case of retromania, albeit not of the playful, tongue-in-cheek variant that Simon Reynolds diagnoses with this term, but a serious case. Here one does not want to come to terms with the fact that what is once valid has to be overtaken, changed, distorted in the name of progress.
The seriousness of genre music always includes a piece of biographical legend.
If you look around a bit, Crockett soon comes up with the image of a classic drifter: Difficult childhood in Texas poverty, street life in New Orleans and street music in New York: a street life.
Or, to put it better, in the prefaces of the Texan author Joe Nick Patoski to Crockett's new album: “Charley has the collapse of the recording industry, lack of money, petty crime, social ennui, the corona pandemic, open-heart surgery, one-night stands , Endure long-distance journeys in a van and noisy rest stops with lukewarm coffee to get to where it is now. "
Such nostalgia also has its dangers
In fact, Crockett does look a little devious. Of course, if you think of the relevant flirtations between country musicians and prison brothers, that too may be coquetry. But he himself says: “Some think my story is far-fetched; in fact, however, I have softened it. ”His story is not least in the songs themselves. Wherever he really hung around until 2015 - this year Charley Crockett made his debut with the album“ A Stolen Jewel ”and since then has barely six Years of creating a work that others will not succeed in decades. In 2016 the blues album "In the Night" was released. Relocations to Austin and Memphis brought forth the albums "Lil G.'s Honky Tonk Jubilee" (2017) and "Lil G.'s Blue Bonanza" (2018) with multiple musical influences; the figure of "Lil G."Is based on Hanks Williams' alter ego" Luke the Drifter ", says Crockett. The albums "Lonesome as a Shadow" (2018), "The Valley" (2019) and "Welcome to Hard Times" (2020) sometimes seem like sung memoirs, "The Valley" bears the subtitle "And Other Autobiographical Tunes". There is also a record with thirty “Field Recordings” and, as if shot from the hip, the tribute album “10 for Slim”, which was released this spring, in honor of the Texas honky-tonk singer James Hand, who is himself a country connoisseur describe as obscure.There is also a record with thirty “Field Recordings” and, as if shot from the hip, the tribute album “10 for Slim”, which was released this spring, in honor of the Texas honky-tonk singer James Hand, who is himself a country connoisseur describe as obscure.There is also a record with thirty “Field Recordings” and, as if shot from the hip, the tribute album “10 for Slim”, which was released this spring, in honor of the Texas honky-tonk singer James Hand, who is himself a country connoisseur describe as obscure.
In a few days Crockett's tenth work will be released with the programmatic title "Music City USA". This epithet is known for the city of Nashville, Tennessee. However, it is not a mere bow to this, but rather a sung criticism of her that Crockett presents in the title song. “They've got a lot to say / In Music City USA” is the laconic refrain. One can only guess what that implies. Above all, a criticism of the exclusivity with which Nashville declares itself to be the country hub. Crockett, on the other hand, comes from the Texas south of the Gulf Coast, he calls his music decidedly "Gulf & Western". He also alludes to influences from the local blues, latin and soul, which can be heard in the new song "I Need Your Love" enriched by winds. That of course sounds like this again,as if it could have been recorded sixty years ago.
Such nostalgia, as embodied by Crockett, of course also harbors dangers, after all, the mindset of some cowboys was perhaps not the noblest. This is also a matter of debate in Nashville today. From a purely aesthetic point of view, however, the decision to adopt the historical performance practice of the country is a strong statement against the distortion of unrecognizability to which the genre has been subjected in the course of commercialization. The attack on "Music City USA" becomes more understandable if you listen to what the heavy industry of the Country Music Association there has produced and distinguished over the past few decades. If rock, metal and rap country are also supposed to be, the classification no longer makes sense.
Charley Crockett's retromania may also have metaphorical potential for other areas of life. His music breathes the spirit of real sustainability, not that of the car scrapping bonuses that are disguised as sustainable. It's a reliable tractor that still runs well: why should it be replaced?Keywords: