CHARLEY CROCKETT ‘Welcome to Hard Times’


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If you listen to his previous albums, you’ll find that he’s as comfortable with ‘boogie-blues’ as ‘George Jones tear-in-your-beer honky-tonk’ (his own words), and plays rockabilly as easily as he does Bill Withers-esque soul.

The “hard times” that dapper singer-songwriter Charley Crockett sings about in “Welcome to Hard Times,” his eighth album in five years, aren’t those set off by the current global pandemic, but of dizzying, more personal life experiences—with enough subterranean episodes to have furnished him the plot of a picaresque novel. He uses them instead to develop music that reflects who he is and where he’s been.

He’s been, as the country classic has it, “everywhere, man,” and no hotels were involved. Raised near Dallas and in New Orleans, for a decade he busked in the latter town, in New York subways, in California, then lived and played on streets in France, Spain and Morocco, before relocating to South Texas. In the process, he has become quite at home with hard country, folk, soul, blues, hip hop, rockabilly and Western Swing. He has described his own ethnic roots as “European, African, Cajun, Creole and Jewish.” He served time for cannabis possession at one point and was also implicated in but escaped prosecution for a securities-fraud scheme that sent his brother to prison for years. The biggest jolt came in January 2019, when he underwent open heart surgery for a congenital condition that nearly killed him.

All of that and is just 36. His years of experience have been reflected in riveting live shows that cross roots-music lines with joyful expertise and finesse, his powerful guitar backed by a hot, versatile band and his impressive dance moves included. Mr. Crockett’s unique vocal style is one third Ernest Tubb honky tonk with clipped-word diction, one third Bill Withers low-key, soulful crooning, and one third jazzy French Quarter second-line swagger.