Think about American music. What comes to mind? Dust ridden ramblers wearing holey overcoats and trilbies, crooning about stouthearted people? Or a bunch of try hard hipsters sporting their finest Imogene + Willie wares (not a knock), opining about vague frailties of the bourgeoisie as projected through song?
If you thought of either, good on me, but if you thought of neither, that’s okay, because American music has become a generally wide-ranging classification of music that serves to accommodate anything that is not strictly country or americana (which is just as vague). That being said, a lot of American music has become relatively watered down thanks in large part to trendiness and en vogue media writing that praises half-assed nostalgia cash ins.
But such a scenario is not wholly true for all of American music today - there are plenty of artists who not only manage to encapsulate the spirit of American music, but downright embody it in it’s most formidable form (for once, we have a fairly reasonable lede!). Amongst those unnamed artists (for the sake of time and sanity), there is no one that serves as the perfect matrimony of classic American music and the mores of modernity better than Mr. Charley Crockett.
I’ll be honest with you - I was definitely late to the game when it comes to Charley Crockett. I’d see his name every now and again, but never really bothered to dive that deep. Then, like most things happen nowadays, I started to see what were (presumably) targeted ads subconsciously coaxing me into stumbling upon Charley Crockett “naturally.” Obviously, I use such a thought in gest, but it’s actually kind of true. Once I (thanks to the ads) caught wind of Crockett’s newest LP, Lonesome As A Shadow, and his subsequent Nashville stop at Mercy Lounge, I figured it was high time to dig into the oeuvre of one Mr. Crockett.
In short, Crockett’s music is spiritually somewhere between Ulysses Everett McGill and “Boogie Chillen” era John Lee Hooker. Sure, Ulysses Everett McGill isn’t a real person, but his personage does embody a tongue in cheek view of the South, which is somewhat similar to Crockett’s take on American music. He’s far from satirical, but there’s an aspect to tunes like “If Not the Fool” that when played live, you can’t help but think Crockett’s sending a wink to the crowd because the songs are almost too damn good. Where those aforementioned Imogene + Willie clad poseurs failed to veil their narcissism as wizened road weariness, Crockett comes through with absolute class, and believability.
Perhaps it’s his snappy dressing, or maybe it’s his literal troubadour background - in reality, it’s his music - but Charley Crockett is about as close to “authentic” American as you can get. And when it comes to his live sets, he sells it like no other. He was truly effortless in his “coolness” giving just enough time to interact with the crowd, before going into “Jamestown Ferry, ”telling his band “Cue it up boys, I’m ready.” He’s apparently unconcerned with the painful self-awareness that coincides with being on stage, which to a Nashville crowd, makes him seemingly insatiable from a performance aspect. It didn’t matter what song or which album Crockett was making a run through at any given moment, he had the Mercy Lounge crowd tied to the string, and he was the puppet master controlling their groove.
So let this serve as your own “catch up” on the Charley Crockett come up, because it’s a damn good time, and about as close to a masterclass in American music as you can get, which is becoming less and less of a commodity not only Nashville, America in general. Get on it.