Show Review: Charley Crockett Played Compelling Set at Brooklyn Bowl w/the National Reserve

Show Reviews

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It’s been a hell of a year for Charley Crockett.  In January he had two open heart surgeries. No one would blame him for taking some time off and enjoying a little of the Gulf on his own.  But not even the specter of heart failure could keep Charley from doing his thing.

Since the heart issues started, he’s recorded an album (his fourth in two years) and then got back on the road almost immediately. Here he was in New York City, headlining the Brooklyn Bowl: a local favorite, which houses a side-stage bowling alley. In some ways this was a homecoming show for Charley. As he said, the first time he played a set outside of the subway system was as an opener at the Brooklyn Bowl.  Charley’s a man of the road though and his sound can’t quite be tied down either.

Mixing soul, classic country, and blues into something his t-shirts call the “Gulf Coast Boogie Woogie”, Charley held on to the crowd across basically three distinct sets. He played solo, plugged in with his full band, and even as a traditional string band set-up, complete with a single centred mic.

About a year ago, he was that opener who ruined the headliner’s set.  Now he’s on to bigger things.  By the time he launched into fan favorite “Jamestown Ferry” you could hear the bowling balls being dropped and necks snap as people swung around to join the crowd. Up front the stage was packed. Space was limited, and the Williamsburg faithful was all-in as Charley commanded the stage.

The National Reserve was a fitting opener. These guys are Brooklyn locals and can be found playing four-hour sets at the Metropolitan Ave’s favorite honky tonk bar: Skinny Dennis. They played a tight set of tunes mostly from their latest record “Motel La Grange.” By the middle of the set they turned up the intensity and blew off a few hats in the front row with the kind of extended guitar solos that haven’t been played that well for a few decades.  The band finished hard on an open E, and the early crowd all turned around, dazed, eyes-wide in a sort of disbelief—muttering things like shit, that was good man.  If you get a chance, and are in New York, catch one of their bar sets before they’re too big.

It’s tough to pick the night’s highlight. Charley could—and probably has—turn a morning commute midtown bound 6 train into the bleeders at the Houston Rodeo. And so when he counts into classics like “That’s How I Got to Memphis” you can’t help but lean back into the groove.  His original material is just as compelling and will rightfully go down as some of the classics of what’s shaping up to be golden era of independent country music.

Towards the end of his set he played a couple tracks off his upcoming album “The Valley” due out September. Most notably was a tune written with his buddy Evan Felker of the Turnpike Troubadours called “Borrowed Time”. Great song, but also great to hear some good news coming out of the Troubadours camp.

After his encore of “Goin’ Back to Texas”, the night ended. Fans stumbled out onto Bedford Ave, then probably to Joe’s Pizza before going underground.  After seeing Charley, I find myself on the L train hoping that he might have inspired someone to go down there, ride the rails, cut their teeth and come out ready to rock and roll.

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