A few years ago, Texas country-blues singer Charley Crockett wrote a song called ‘How Long Will I Last’ about an uncertain love affair. Little did he know the song title would also prove a prophetic metaphor for his recent struggle with heart disease. Purely by chance when he was seeking medical advice for repairing a hernia in January, Crockett learned he also had bicuspid aortic valve stenosis, a disease where, instead of having three aortic flaps that allow the blood to flow, two are fused together. “The cardiologist determined I was one year away from heart failure. It was really, really good luck that I found out what was wrong with me.”
Charley Crockett had previously put some of the symptoms associated with the condition such as fatigue, shortness of breath and dizziness to his intensive touring schedule. The 35-year-old was born in San Benito, Texas and raised in the Valley until his mother moved the family to the Dallas area during elementary school. After high school, Crockett took to the road for more than 10 years, playing street corners, subway platforms, and open mics across the country and overseas, before returning to Dallas in 2014.
Given a toss-up between a lifetime of taking blood-thinning medication or open-heart surgery to replace a faulty valve he opted for the latter and now has a bioprosthetic valve created from cow tissue, making him literally part man, part cowboy.
“I play 90 minutes straight each night, dancing onstage, and you just can’t be as active with the blood-thinning medications. That was huge for me,” said Crockett, whose last album, ‘Lonesome As A Shadow’, has earned growing acclaim.
Now fully recovered, Charley Crockett is taking to the road and returning to the UK for a series of UK dates next month in support of his new album, ‘The Valley’ which is due out in the autumn. In even better news, he’s accompanied on tour by the wonderful Jaime Wyatt whose debut album, ‘Felony Blues’ released in 2018 is rarely off the stereo here at AUK Towers.
Charley Crockett’s new album, ‘The Valley’ was recorded before he had any notion that he would soon be on the operating table, but he says his songs often reveal their meanings well after he writes them.
“That’s what crazy about my music,” he says. “I don’t know what them songs are about until later. I’ve gotta grow into them. Just like the advice that I was given to me by more wise musicians, a wiser generation, when I was younger. When you’re a young man, you remember that advice that you didn’t understand, but you knew you needed to, and then you grew into the understanding. I realize that that’s music. That’s why it’s art, and that’s why it matters. If it’s real, that’s why it matters.”
Now based in Austin, ‘The Valley’ chronicles his hard upbringing on the south Texas border in San Benito and his single mom’s move to Dallas, while also distilling the essence of Crockett’s fierce and restless independence. The title track of the new album includes the autobiographical title track which features the lyrics: “Now you know my story/I bet you’ve got one like it, too/May the curse become a blessing/There’s nothing else that you can do.”
“That’s how I see this surgery, as this enormous blessing. It’s like, “You have a cow valve in your heart! You need to take care of that”, he said with a laugh. “It took something like this to make me realize I have to put my health and my well-being first”.
Charley Crockett and Jaime Wyatt Tour Dates:
SUN 1 Sep – Oslo, London
MON 2 Sep – Prince Albert, Brighton
WED 4 Sep – Night & Day Café, Manchester
THU 5 Sep – Broadcast, Glasgow
FRI 6 Sep – The Cluny, Newcastle
SAT 7 Sep – The Long Road Festival, Leicestershire