REVIEW: Charley Crockett’s “The Valley” Embraces His Inner Texas

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On The Valley (Son of Davy) Charley Crockett jettisons the Louisiana in his sound and fully embraces his inner Texas. Gone are the trumpet and accordion replaced by fiddle and pedal steel. With the exception of a few tracks that steal a sensibility, energy, and a saxophone or organ from Motown, Crockett sounds akin to theWestern swingers of old, especially on title track, “The Valley,” and “10,000 Acres.” Two of the albums highpoints, both showcase Crockett’s sensibility for elusively simple lyrics and the joy of a two-step. “My Daddy didn’t know me, my brother rolled the dice, my Mama kept on working, and my sister paid a price,” Crockett sings on “The Valley.” There’s hope further down the road in the valley too, however, as he sings in refrain, “in my mind I see the valley, you should see the way it glows”. There’s 10,000 Acres between here and that valley ahead, and for Crockett it is a desolate place, “10,000 acres of lonesome, 500 miles of pain… I got a dollar in my pocket, it won’t help me much in bringing back your love, but if you’re selling heartache then I’m buying”.

The Valley was recorded at Fort Horton Studios with Billy Horton and Alnico Studios with Nico Leophonte. A diverse line-up of players features Nathan Fleming (pedal steel), Alexis Sanchez and Dave Biller (electric guitar), Colin Colby and Billy Horton (upright bass), Jay Moeller (drums), Kullen Fox (piano), Anthony Farrell (organ), Jeff Dazey (baritone saxophone), Kyle Nix (fiddle), Greg Izor(harmonica), and Brennen Leigh and Noel McKay (backing vocals). Crockett dedicates the release, “to anyone who ever walked that lonesome valley by themselves. Give thanks and praise.” The Valley is a record full of loss, longing, and hope just like any good country record should be.

“Big Gold Mine” finds Crockett more content with the simpler things of life with lyrics that mirror his whimsical whistle breaks, “I don’t need no big gold mine, I just want to make you mine.” The Way I’m Livin’ (Santa Rosa) continues with the good time bounce with Crockett embracing his rambling ways, “if the way I’m living seems like just a mess, believe me I would choose this life over the rest.”  “Change Yo’ Mind” and “Motel Time Again” continue down a country backroad – fresh and familiar all the same. While “Excuse Me” is reminiscent of Harlan Howard’s “Heartache by the Numbers.” “They just don’t know how lost I feel without you, my teardrops never see the light of day, I laugh and joke each time they talk about you, but if they heard my heart they’d here it say…excuse me I think I’ve got a heartache,” Crockett sings assuming the role of tear-in-your-beer traditional country crooner.

“It’s Nothing to Me” ratchets up the album’s energy with a accusatorial harmonica and a punchy Telecaster with lyrics to match, “take your drink to the end of the bar, buddy, now don’t be a fool, I’d as soon have a hot seat in Sing Sing Prison, than sit down by her on that stool”. The only co-write on the record, “Borrowed Time,” a barn burning slap-clap and fiddle breakdown, finds Crockett and Turnpike Troubadours’ Evan Felker in top form and high energy as well. “If Not the Fool” acts as a foil to the overall musical landscape of the album with its 50’s era pop-ballad architecture, as does Crockett’s version of “9 Pound Hammer” takes another divergent path with a sparse ragged-but-right stumbling banjo and a tambourine. “Maybelle” and “River of Sorrow” find Crockett pining for love lost to rambling ways, a wandering heart, and a life of sin. If you’re wondering who is carrying Hank Williams torch on down that lonesome highway, wonder no more – the answer is Charley Crockett. http://www.charleycrockett.com

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