Growing up with a single mother in San Benito, Texas, the hometown of Tejano star Freddy Fender, was not easy for blues singer Charley Crockett. Hitchhiking across the country exposed Crockett to the street life at a young age, following in the footsteps of his relative, American folk hero Davy Crockett, who also lived a wild life on the American frontier. After train hopping across the country, singing on the streets for change in New Orleans French Quarter, playing in New York City subway cars and performing across Texas, California, and everywhere in between, Crockett set off to travel the world and lived on the streets of Paris for a year before wandering in Spain, Morocco, and Northern Africa.
The blues artist returned home to Texas and released his debut solo album titled A Stolen Jewel in 2015, receiving critical acclaim in Dallas and ultimately landing him a Dallas Observer Music Award that year for “Best Blues Act”. A record “rich with Southern flavor, a musical gumbo of Delta blues, honky-tonk, gospel and Cajun jazz,” Jewel proved that Crockett, born into poverty in the Rio Grande, had come home to make his musical mark on the South. Crockett, who is described as elusive, rebellious and self-taught, has been compared to legends like Bill Withers, Hank Williams, and Gary Clark Jr.
He released his sophomore record In The Night, an admirable nod to his Texas country and Louisiana blues roots, in 2016 and played over 125 shows that year. “In the Night” and Crockett’s song “I Am Not Afraid” received international recognition by NPR Music as one of the “Top 10 Songs Public Radio Can’t Stop Playing” and selected by David Dye to be featured on World Cafe in late July. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram called it “an impressive calling card, full of Crockett’s plaintive soulfulness and swinging tempos” and others noted the artist as having “the well-rounded songwriting capabilities of Van Morrison and a vocal approach that finds common ground between Bill Withers and early Dr. John.” Crockett graced the cover of Buddy Magazine in May 2016, who called him “the archetype of the new American vagabond.”
In 2017, he spent the year building a devoted fan base across the country with his much talked about live show while selling out theaters in his native Texas and across the US. He remained on the road most of the year appearing at major festivals and venues.
In all this, he still found time to get back to Austin, Texas to record a collection of his favorite honky tonk songs called Charley Crockett presents Lil G.L.’s Honky Tonk Jubilee . The album features songs originally performed by Hank Williams, Ernest Tubb, Loretta Lynn, Tanya Tucker, Roy Acuff, Webb Pierce, and other great heroes of honky tonk. “Playing on the streets of New Orleans I heard traditional music all day long. Young folks were playing it everywhere. Old Time, Jug bands, Brass bands, Spirituals, drinkin ‘ songs, you name it. All you have to do to learn these songs is stand out in the street all day, but mind the whiskey” Crockett said. “I love this music. It’s the blues and it feels good to sing. A lot of folks are drawn to this sound even if they don’t know why. It’s the American struggle. It’s got the kind of soul that’s hard to find nowadays and all I know is you gotta get a lot of mud on you before you can make folks believe you when you sing these songs. There just ain’t no fakin’ it. I’ve lived these songs. I want to walk alongside and pay my respects to the artists and songwriters who went through so much to give us this music.”
Now in 2018, Crockett releases Lonesome As A Shadow, an album of all original material recorded in Memphis at the legendary Sam Phillip’s Recording Service with Producer/Engineer Matt Ross-Spang. Backed by his band of Blue Drifters, this album was recorded live to tape in the middle of a long year of touring. It’s a musical gumbo of influences that showcases the various depths of Crockett’s sound.
Charley wrote about the album “The idea of making an album in Memphis has been with me a long time so when I got a chance to record at Sam Phillips with Matt Ross-Spang I jumped on it. Memphis has a habit of getting good, soulful music out of folks time and again and Matt came up in that tradition so it was just natural from the jump. I’ve said it before but my influences stretch from Hank Williams to Bill Withers and my first couple a records were really a mix of the sounds that make up Texas & Louisiana music for me. Blues, Country, Soul, Cajun, Tejano and Zydeco. I wanted to keep all that together. Something with that Gulf Coast sound that’s both urban and rural. Turns out, Sam Phillips was just the place to make it happen. Besides, all those amazing Sun and Stax artists were country folks cutting records in the city anyway so it was just natural for me. We were gonna hire a studio band for the session but Matt watched a few videos of my road band “The Blue Drifters” and decided I should bring them with me. Those boys are all so dang good in the studio and on the stage and since we were already really tight, cutting the record was easy and we did it live to tape in 4 days with a handful of overdubs. I feel lucky to be playing with such fine musicians.”
“Lonesome As A Shadow is really important for me. I’d been in the shadows and playing out on the streets for years. That kind of living gave people the impression that I was rough around the edges. Just a gentleman Hobo. I learned a million songs standing out in the street but I’ve also written a million too. This record is me laying all that out there. I’ve got more songs than years in this life to cut ‘em all so I’ve got to get busy! It’s a Texas & Louisiana record through and through but it’s a Memphis Soul record too and I really like that.”
He’s set to tour the US and internationally this year. He’s shared the stage with Turnpike Troubadours, St. Paul and the Broken Bones, John Paul White, Justin Townes Earl, Lee Ann Womack, JD McPherson, and many others.