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Charley Crockett – Welcome to Hard Times album review

The charismatic Country star continues to forge his own path.

Charley Crockett
Credit: Bobby Cochran
Charley Crockett - Welcome to Hard Times

Credit: Thirty Tigers

Charley Crockett has been making waves on the Country music scene since debuting in 2015 with album A Stolen Jewel. A prolific artist, he’s already released seven studio albums in the past five years, his latest being Field Recordings, Vol 1 back in April. Having lived a very colourful life – Crockett has been homeless, incarcerated twice, lost his sister to addiction and undergone life-saving heart surgery – it’s no surprise that he’s titled his latest album, and second release this year, Welcome to Hard Times.

Finalised before the pandemic, but oddly fitting for the strange times we all find ourselves in, Welcome to the Hard Times sees Crockett continuing to forge his own path in the Country music genre. He’s not interested in being a mainstream, instead channelling his energy into making authentic music that reflects his influences and embraces the often-forgotten tradition of the genre. Produced by Mark Neill, Welcome to the Hard Times feature 13 stories and it’s a collection as compelling as it is varied.

Refusing to be pigeon-holed for one sound, Crockett explores a wealth of sounds over the course of the record. The title track kicks off the record and it combines Southern rhythms with a little blues-inspired piano. Crockett’s voice is as distinctive as ever, his deep tone having much more in common with the likes of Johnny Cash and Elvis Presley than any of his contemporaries. The song may be downbeat but it’s delivered with charisma, and that’s the key to Crockett’s appeal.

On the uptempo Run Horse Run, Crockett speak sings over the bouncing melody and you can imagine him going down a storm in a little honkytonk in the Deep South. The perky Tennessee Special finds Crockett telling the listener that he’s not in the slightest bit interested in living in the city, instead finding his home among the countryside. On the album’s centrepiece Wreck Me, Crockett shows off a more melodic side of his sound with swoonsome melodies backing his deep voice, and honest it sounds like a classic song from yesteryear.

Elsewhere on the record the beat-driven Raining In My Heart serves up some serious mood, Paint It Blue utilises effective pedal steel to accompany a steady rhythm, and The Man That Time Forgot takes you right back to the classic sound of legends like Patsy Cline – the song is also one of the finest on the record. The album closes with the brilliant The Poplar Tree, a song that really showcases Crockett’s ability to reel you in with a story and keep you hooked.

Welcome to the Hard Times is a refreshing break from the modern Country music that dominates radio stations, and indeed the genre. Crockett would have fit right in with the greats and in some ways it feels like he was born at the wrong time. Fans of more traditional Country will find plenty to love here and Crockett is an artist who keeps your attention once you hear his music. If you’ve not heard his music yet, do yourself a favour and check him out as he’s truly something special.

Track list: 1. Welcome to Hard Times 2. Run Horse Run 3. Don’t Cry 4. Tennessee Special 5. Fool Somebody Else 6. Lilly My Dear 7. Wreck Me 8. Heads You Win 9. Raining In My Heart 10. Paint It Blue 11. Blackjack County Chain 12. The Man That Time Forgot 13. The Poplar Tree Record label: Thirty Tigers Release date: 31st July 2020 Buy Welcome to Hard Times

Charley Crockett will be performing a free show on Destination Country’s Facebook page on Sunday 2nd August at 8pm BST.

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