Reviewed by Harry Kaplan
The more I hear Charley singing, the more I absolutely love him. He is the perfect example of someone who is at the top of their craft. Not only does he have enormous talent and charisma, he also is perhaps the hardest working man in show business, now that James Brown is gone. Charley keeps his head down and accomplishes his goals. A good comparison to Charley is Peyton Manning. Another person with enormous talent with an incredible work ethic. This work ethic is apparent in Charley’s recordings. You can hear his perfection and demand for high quality. Welcome To Hard Times is a magical collection of tunes that are modern but could have been released 70 years ago and fit right in.
We don’t have the musical idols like we used to. Guys like Sinatra, Martin, Bennett, Redding, and Gaye were almost larger than life. If we had that era back, Charley would be right up there in the conversation with the legends. Yes, I said legend. And I didn’t name even close to all of them. Charley has amassed quite a healthy catalogue! In the last five and a half years, Charley has released eight albums. That’s approaching Beatle status. And all of the music is great. Again, that goes back to Charley’s work ethic and blue collar ethos.
It is extremely difficult to put Charley’s music in a box as far as classification. You will hear everything from blues, rhythm and blues, soul, rock and roll, classic country and outlaw country in Charley’s music. He is all those things, but should not be classified by anyone genre individually.
The Man That Time Forgot is a perfect example of the difficulty of trying to classify Charley’s music. This song has at least 4 different genres represented. But who’s counting? Every influence just makes the music more rich and full of little Easter eggs. This ditty starts off with some gorgeous pedal steel and quickly fades and Charley starts singing. Sad songs are part of country music and Charley certainly knows how to construct a tear jerker:
Have you ever seen a stranger just a-passing through?The Man That Time Forgot by Charley Crockett
And wondered where that drifter, he was headed to?
Well, the stranger’s me and it’s plain to see
I burn every bridge that I cross
I’m the man that time forgot
And I’m the man that time forgot
Yes, I’m the man that time forgot
That’s a serious box of tissues right there. The realization that you aren’t the man that everyone thinks you are. The imposter syndrome. This is some seriously introspective writing.
It doesn’t get any easier. The next song, The Poplar Tree, is a song about the tree where the character of the song gets hung by the very tree that he writes about. As he was thinking about his broken heart, thanks to his girl who just left him. This is a classic case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. He was witness to a shootout where the criminal was killed. When the criminal’s posse caught up with the heartbroken man, they hung him for their leader’s murder. The song has a beautiful old timey musical feel to it, similar to something Marty Robbins might have sung.
As the title and title track suggest, these are hard times. Welcome To Hard Times is not just a song or an album title, it is a prophecy. “The dice are loaded and everything’s fixed. Even a hobo will tell you this.” Pretty heady words and this is a sentiment that everyone feels. Especially now. Life definitely isn’t fair or linear. I don’t know if this song was written prior to the pandemic, but it couldn’t fit any better into what is going currently going on. Charley has his finger on the pulse of the nation.
If you are looing for well written, high quality music that is packaged in a country music and rhythm and blues decorative box, this is for you. Look no further than right here. Once things get back to some semblance of normal, it will be the year of Charley Crockett.