By Doug Palmer
Doug runs IOUMusic on facebook and is an avid supporter of Independent music.
Let me tell you about independent country music's wild card...
The first time I saw Charley Crockett on stage, I had no idea he was going to be there. The opening band was setting up and I recognized the guy who had been in front of me in line at the convenience store earlier, he was the axe man. Next thing I know this wild man walks out on the stage in a 70's nudie suit, grabs the mic, and breaks into an unexpectedly bluesy song while his band plays brass flavored funk. It didn't take more than a couple minutes before everyone in the club was dancing along to this unique blend of country, rock, and Cajun flavored blues. Before Charley and the boys left the stage, I knew I had a new favorite.
Needless to say, before I left the parking garage that night I had downloaded both of Charley's albums. I spent the 3 hour drive home from Boston (On a work night) listening to Charley, thinking about what an interesting choice for an opener he was, but damned if he didn't get that crowd going. I suspect Charley and the boys have built up quite the following touring with Turnpike Troubadours, BJ Barham, and other notable acts in the independent country family this year.
Fast forward to late August, Charley teased on social media that he had signed with Thirty Tigers and was up to something big. Now, I had suspected he was working on a new album with all the heavy touring, but I had no idea exactly what he had up his sleeve. I expected another funky blues album with country flavor, as I had grown to love so much. Boy was I (And I suspect most everyone else) surprised when he dropped an album of classic country covers of artists like George Jones, Roy Acuff, Hank Williams, and many more. That album came out September 8th and was titled 'Lil G.L’s Honky Tonk Jubilee'
Up to this point I have not mentioned the soulful, bluesy breathe of fresh air that is Charley's voice. Few musicians really hit you in the gut the first time you hear them; the ones that do are so distinct, so fresh sounding, that you know you are hooked right away. Charley is absolutely one of those, lend that voice to some of country music's absolute gems and you have a winning combination right from Jump Street.
Charley didn't just phone it in here, he brought his flair to a whopping 16 tracks, making every one of them his own. I have probably listened to this album a dozen times now and could go track-by-track telling you how much and why I love each song, but John asked me to keep this article small enough to keep his cloud storage bill in check. I will tell you that, while I love each of these songs, I think there are a couple that he brings an extra special something to. The first is the opener, "Night Train To Memphis"; to me this one sounds the most like Charley being Charley. This song has been recorded by Roy Acuff, Jerry Lee Lewis, George Jones, and more. George and Roy went heavy fiddle, Jerry Lee went heavy on the piano, and Charley went heavy piano with lots of brass to frame his soulful southern voice. My other favorite is the Hank Williams classic "Honky Tonkin"; Charley makes this song distinctively his own with every pitch change, sounding like a great homage to the classic voice that came before, and not some kid trying to sound like Hank.
I always get nervous when I hear an artist I love is doing a cover album; it is so easy to be unimaginative when the songs are already laid out for you, it takes a real talent to bring something special to an established work. Charley took the torch and ran with it here, I really wish his current tour was making it's way into New England, but I guess I'll catch him next time.
From his voice to his classic duds, Charley was meant to make this album, bringing these classics to the ear buds of the digital age. I hope that you take the time to check out the original version of each of these songs if you enjoy them, I think that is what Charley had in mind when he recorded this.
Just a Massachusetts guy supporting Texas and other independent country/Americana artists.
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