Clare Williams writes: Just over a week ago, Charley Crockett and The Blue Drifters turned Manchester venue Band on the Wall into a mix of New Orleans blues club, Texan honky tonk and old fashioned western saloon!
You can call him country but it’s hard to pigeon hole Charley Crockett into a single genre. Or even era. His music appears timeless, cleverly moving from the 1950s to modern-day. With his retro cowboy look and unique sound, Charley Crockett doesn’t fit the Broadway country mould. Offering something completely authentic and different, he’s a genre unto himself.
Born along the Rio Grande, the deep south weaves through his music. There’s also a heavy blues influence from his time hustling a living busking in the French Quarter of New Orleans. Throw-in the trumpet for a cajun twist plus double bass, banjo, pedal steel and ragtime piano and you have something just a little bit special!
Crockett opened the night with a selection of upbeat and catchy country tunes. Run Horse Run conjured up images of a spaghetti western – you could imagine him swaggering on stage in a poncho smoking a cigar rather than vintage rodeo shirt and acoustic guitar. The toe-tapping Cowboy Candy and Johnny Paycheck cover Jukebox Charlie featured wonderful pedal steel, which led into the crowd pleaser Just Like Honey, underpinned with saloon-style tinkling bar piano.
Switching to honky tonk with Don’t Tell Me That, Ten Dollar Cowboy and the Waylon Jeggings- esque Black Sedan, Crockett followed with break-through hit, The Man From Waco, with a wonderful trumpet solo. It’s Tex-mex, it’s Cajun, mariachi, outlaw. It’s ‘Crockett Country’.
Although most of the gig showcased original music, standout covers of Buck Owen’s 196’s Act Naturally and Jamestown Ferry (Tanya Tucker) were delivered in Crockett’s own unique style, making old music new.
He played the electric guitar for some country bluesy tunes, before swapping for the banjo to accompany the accordion on Silver Dagger and Trinity River. Flitting back to blues for I’m Just A Clown, Crockett brings such a wide diversity of musical styles to his gig, it’s hard to predict what’s coming next.
After the entire crowd chanted “Charley,Charley”, Crockett delivered a superb encore with Texan story-song The Death of Bill Bailey and moving folk ballad Time of The Cottonwood Trees he wrote for his fiancé.
A colourful life travelling and drifting with a guitar, ‘hoboing’ a living around the south west is reflected throughout his music adding flavour to his songwriting. You just know Charley Crockett has many stories to tell and his lyrically skilled music offers the perfect outlet.
Not only a singer/songwriter, he is a showman, connecting with the eclectic mix of an audience though Elvis-like sideways eye glances and scooting around the stage with his guitar, in the style of Chuck Berry and Dwight Yoakam combined! It’s obvious he loves performing and in his comfort zone with an audience. There’s none of the road-weary appearance many touring artists portray.
If it takes years to be an overnight sensation, with 12 albums to his name, Crockett has paid his dues to the music gods. At 39, he’s been making music since getting his first guitar at 17. Named Americana Music’s Emerging Artist of the Year in 2021, plus some viral social media, has helped his growing reputation.
You can feel that Charley Crockett is simply one song away from the big time. Booked to open nine shows for legendary Chris Stapleton this October and just added to the 2024 Stagecoach Festival line-up will expose him to a wider audience. It could just be his final step towards stardom. Releasing music on independent labels, he’s his own man with his own style and it seems unlikely success will change him.
This gig was one of the best live performances I have seen in along time. Although I enjoy his recorded music, I’d spend my very last £25.00 on another ticket to see him perform live again.
Post Note: Slipping out of the packed venue during the last song, I ran smack bang into Charley Crockett as he boarded his tour bus on the empty side street. He went out of his way to say thank you for attending and the show will be even better next time. What a humble and gracious man with the nicest Texan drawl!
To find out more visit: www.charleycrockett.com
All Manchester gig photos: Clare Williams