It would be easy to say that Charley Crockett is a country singer from Texas and call it a day. However, that doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface. Crockett is more than a country singer. At the same time, he may have roots in Texas, but his sound is a melting pot of America’s varied regional sounds.
Charley Crockett spent his early days between San Benito and Los Fresnos in South Texas. In his teenage years, his family relocated to Dallas and young Charley found that life in the Big D wasn’t for him. As a result, he moved in with his uncle in the fabled French Quarter of New Orleans. There, he learned to play guitar which led to playing in city parks. Before long, Crockett was playing on the streets of NOLA for tips from tourists. Over the years, he traveled the country learning from older traveling musicians. He played in the streets of Paris, France, the subways of New York City, house parties across the country, and anywhere else he could make a little money with his music.
Developing a Sound All His Own
Through his travels, Crockett developed a sound that he calls Gulf & Western. It weaves Gulf Shores R&B and the Country & Western music he grew up hearing in Texas with other threads in the vast tapestry of American music. In an interview with No Fashion Places, Charley Crockett summed up how he developed his sound. “You throw out the songs that don’t work and you play the songs that do work. So, I learned a lot of old jazz, a lot of old blues, a lot of soul music. I learned a lot of music off of other travelers.”
In an interview with Texas Music Scene TV about his 2020 release Welcome to Hard Times Charley said, “I’m not the first to do what I’m doin’ and I wouldn’t call myself the best. But, I think I do it different. The way that I’m doin’ Country & Western and the way that I’m doin’ Gulf Coast Rhythm and Blues and putting that together, I believe that there’s a commercial country audience that wants to hear that.”
“Prolific” Is an Understatement when It Comes to Charley Crockett
Welcome to Hard Times introduced Charley Crockett to a much broader audience. When it dropped in July of 2020, the title track seemed to fit the world we were all living in like a glove. However, that was Charley’s eighth studio album. His first album, A Stolen Jewel dropped back in 2015.
Today, Charley Crockett has ten studio albums and he recently announced an eleventh album due out in April. No two of those records are the same. Crockett grows, evolves, and changes with each release. However, his instantly-recognizable vocal delivery and unique instrumentation tie his catalog together, lending a measure of sonic cohesion to even his most disparate albums.
More than anything, Charley Crockett is his own man. He is an artist who isn’t afraid to stand up for his way of doing things. He told Texas Music Scene, “My entire career has been made up out of goin’ the very direction I was told there was no future in headin’ that way. And, ya know, it’s worked out pretty good for me so far.”
Gulf & Western: The Essential Charley Crockett
If you’ve heard the singles and want to dig deeper into Charley Crockett’s discography, we’ve got you covered. This playlist has a little something from each of Charley’s albums. I’ve picked a few songs to highlight below. But, if you’d rather skip to the music, you’ll find the playlist below.
“The Valley” is the title track from Charley Crockett’s 2019 album. More than that, it tells part of Crockett’s story. The first two verses talk about his hometown of San Benito, Texas and his family’s move to Dallas. It’s the kind of song that shows how personal Crockett will get with his lyrics. At the same time, it’s a great introduction to the strength of his lyrical storytelling.
“Drivin’ Nails in My Coffin”
Charley Crockett included “Drivin’ Nails In My Coffin” on his debut album A Stolen Jewel. This song is a strong example of Crockett’s earlier work. For one, the horn section highlights the influence that New Orleans has had on him as a musician. More importantly, this is an example of Charley dipping into the deep well of classic country music. Jerry Irby wrote this song and released it as “Nails in My Coffin” back in 1945. Later Ernest Tubb, Floyd Tillman, and Hank Thompson covered it. It’s a classic and Crockett made it his own.
“Jamestown Ferry” is another example of Charley Crockett taking a classic song and making it his own. Bobby Borchers and Mack Vickery co-penned this song in the early seventies. Tany Tucker and Doug Kershaw both released a version of the tune in 1972. Crockett included his version of the song on his 2017 album Lil G.L.’s Honky Tonk Jubilee.
“Music City, USA”
Charley Crockett co-penned this song with Mark Neill and used it as the title track from his 2021 album. “Music City, USA” is a cynical look at the Nashville system and how it doesn’t have a place for artists like Charley. He drives that home in the chorus with lines like, “I shouldn’t have come here in the first place / ‘Cause folks in here don’t like my kind. / I hear they’ve got a lot of reasons / I think I see them on their signs.”
Check out our Essential Charley Crockett playlist. While you’re at it, be sure to follow Outsider on Spotify to get the best music from our favorite artists.