Charley Crockett “Welcome to Hard Times” (Son of Davy/Thirty Tigers, 2020)

If you’ve been looking for something new to listen to, but you aren’t quite sure where to turn then there’s good news. Charley Crockett’s self-professed goal for his new album was to “make an album that would reclaim the entire conversation about country music”. That’s a pretty high bar for an artist to set for himself, but when you’ve got Mark Neil producing and songwriting assists from Pat McLaughlin and Dan Auerbach—you should shoot for the moon.

For listeners who aren’t familiar with Crockett’s previous work—a warning. Don’t be distracted by the 10-gallon hat, the chiseled jaw, and the smile that you can hear go “tink” when the sunlight hits it. If you get caught up in appearances, you might make the mistake of thinking that he’s all hat and no cattle. Nothing could be further from the truth.

His previous albums have proved, through the songs that he writes and the ones he chooses to cover, that he is as much a conservator of treasured artifacts as he is a trailblazer. Reclaiming the conversation isn’t about a break from tradition. It’s about restoring certain things that have been forgotten or overlooked.

There is a heaviness to the songs on this album that seems to be straddling the line between resignation and resolve: Resignation to the fact that these hard times are a continuation of all the other hard times that came before and resolve to meet them head-on, look them in the eye, and never blink.

Will the album reclaim the entire conversation about country music? It will definitely get people talking and it should bring Crockett’s music more of the attention it deserves. If it doesn’t turn the whole conversation on its head, that might have more to do with what audiences are willing to hear than with the message or the messenger.

Bold aims plus brilliant execution equal a breakthrough album
9/10

Author: Steven Rafferty

Writer, Musician, Political Junkie, Oilfield Hand in Recovery . . .

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