Review: Charley Crockett Retains His Unpretentious Approach

Charlie Crockett/The Man FromWaco/Thirty Tigers
Four out of Five Stars

Videos by American Songwriter

Charlie Crockett has made a rapid rise to prominence in the seven or so years since initiating his recording career. Yet despite the stream of kudos he’s been accorded for each of his albums, he still manages to retain a humble persona, one of a perennial good ole’ boy who’s apparently content to make his music without the flash and frenzy that others often acquire in the process. 

Crockett’s new album, The Man From Waco, proves the point. Kicking off with a sparkling instrumental prelude that sets the tone and tempo, he shares a series of songs that reflect and embrace his unassuming stance. The song titles tell all—“Cowboy Candy,” “Time of the Cottonwood Trees,” “Tom Turkey,” the title track, and the self-effacing “I’m Just a Clown” in particular. Each offering is accompanied by a simple sway and saunter, and while Crockett employs a sizable list of guest contributors, the arrangements still manage to hold to a light, lithe and understated delivery. 

That said, the music never comes across as fickle or unnecessary. “The Man From Waco” finds Crockett channeling his best Marty Robbins, while certain other songs—“Black Sedan” and “Just Like Honey” in particular”—take on a gravitas that might have inspired a nod of approval from Waylon Jennings, Johnny Cash or Merle Haggard in particular. So too, Crockett is a master when it comes to shifting his template, occasionally employing swing, strings, or unexpected changes in texture or treatment to add emphasis to the individual offerings. The aforementioned “Tom Turkey” alters the scenario entirely, courtesy of a bluesy shuffle that further grounds his seemingly carefree caress. 

Some might suspect Crockett’s unhurried approach masks some darker designs. After all, it’s hard to be a cool cowboy these days, what with the noise and novelty that an artist’s audiences and handlers often demand. “Odessa,” more or less, states his case, albeit in dire terms:

I’ve got Odessa in my head, I think I like to wake up dead
Then I’d finally take my rest and get this weight up off my chest
Yes, I know I’m talking bad but I’ve done lost the best I had
There ain’t no way to walk no line with Odessa on my mind

Crockett’s music offers a rare combination of solemnity and celebration in equal proportion, a quality that’s set him apart from the beginning. This man from Waco has indeed come a long way, but he’s managed to remain grounded nonetheless. My name’s up in lights, but I still don’t feel right, he confesses on the album’s final entry, “Name on a Billboard.” Ultimately, that unpretentious stance serves him well.

Photo by Bobby Cochran / REK Room Media

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