REVIEW: Charley Crockett’s “Welcome to Hard Times” is Crooner’s Call and Heartache

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Charlie Crockett – Welcome to Hard Times

Welcome to Hard Times, the latest work from Charley Crockett, continues to embrace the wide open western plains with a country crooner’s call and plodding heartache. Gambling, horses, trains, chain gangs, and lonesomeness all make an appearance in these tales told with worry, woe, and world weary wisdom providing weight to every turn of phrase. Pedal steel and country blues ragtime piano populate Hard Times scenery as Crockett marks time with a tight country shuffle and simply strummed guitar. Crockett has played with more Cajun influences in the past, but has found his home in Western country and swing.

The title track kicks off this collection with a message at once timeless and in the present. “Life’s a casino…the dice are loaded and the everything’s fixed, even a hobo would tell you this, welcome to hard times,” Crockett croons a welcome to the album over slow two stepper ready to take you around the floor of the Broken Spoke. “Run Horse Run” follows with yee-haws that inspire visions of Stagecoach or Jake Blues’ take on Rawhide. A tale of criminality in a weary western town plays out over a quick shuffle and a sure footed pedal steel. “Don’t Cry” and “Wreck Me” lean hard into Crockett’s sympathy for slow blues and heartache while “Fool Somebody Else” finds an near jazzy feel deep in the landscape of western swing. “Fool somebody else, do it to yourself and tell me how it feels, when you hold somebody tight just to see them go in the middle of the night, would you give up all your love if you already knew it would never be enough, put my heart back on the shelf, why don’t fool somebody else,” Crockett sings.

Other standout tracks include “Paint it Blue” and “Black Jack County Chain.” One a tale of an outlaw on the run and his embrace of the choices he has made and where his tale will end, “I ain’t too concerned with my name, cause I know it won’t be on my grave, but I ain’t gonna hang my head down and cry, cause I know where I’m going when I die.” The other turns on the tale of poor man’s destiny with the chain gang, the gangs revolt, and the death of the gang driving sheriff, “I was standing aside the road in Black Jack County, not knowing the sheriff paid a bounty for men like me who didn’t have a penny to our names, so he locked my leg to 35 pounds of Black Jack County chain.” As the tale builds, Crockett continues, “and then one night when the sheriff was a sleepin’, we gather all around him slowly creepin’, heaven help me to forget that night in the cold cold rain, when we beat him to death with 35 pounds of Black Jack County chain.” The story walks a tight rope between melancholy and release.

A fitting closer, “The Poplar Tree” paints a picture with banjo, piano, rim shots, and a thumping bass that rides on traditional country motifs into a western sunset while the hero attempts to allude a posse only to end up hung as an outlaw from a poplar tree. “The Poplar Tree” plays out with the welcomed familiarity of any number of classic western movies all to the tune of Crockett’s country croon. Do yourself a favor and jump on Charley Crockett’s train today! http://www.charleycrockett.com/

 

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