(Charley Crockett photo by Lyza Renee)
EAR BLISS REVIEWS by Boudin Dan
The new album from Austin-based roots artist Charley Crockett called The Valley receives the Ear Bliss look-see this week along with the latest effort from the young singer/songwriter/fiddler Lillie Mae called Other Girls. From busking in the streets of New Orleans, New York, Europe and Africa to making his Newport Folk Festival debut this past summer, Charley Crockett has logged loads of miles and honed his performing chops to near perfection. That is on display on his new autobiographical journey of an album called The Valley. Other Girls is the sophomore effort for Jack White’s Third Man Records for Mae who also does double duty as part of White’s solo project band, as well as his rock & roll outfit The Raconteurs. Other Girls expands the sonic pallet for Mae and is a good one. Let’s take a look.
Charlie Crockett Sings The Valley & Other Autobiographical Tunes
Son of Davy Records
Dressed in an eye-catching firetruck red vintage Western suit, the Texas-based singer/songwriter Charley Crockett made quite the splash this summer during his appearance at the Newport Folk Festival. Mixing originals and covers, he and his razor-sharp band proceeded to work their magic on a mix of Texas Swing, Louisiana Blues, New Orleans, and R&B tunes. Yet, it wasn’t until mid-set where he and his group unplugged instruments and gathered around a single vintage ribbon microphone that the true magic happened. The purity of the performance felt and sounded like something out of the Grand Ol’ Opry of the 1930s. It was safe to say that American roots music is in good hands where Charley Crockett is concerned and his new release, The Valley, is a testament to his respect and honor for what has come before him. His fourth album in two years, the 15-track affair is an autobiographical journey of sorts for Crockett mixing original tunes drawing from his own life experiences with covers that have a special place in his heart. Take the classic folk tune “Nine Pound Hammer.” A song about slavery and the exploitation of labor, Crockett learned the songs during his early busking days in the streets of New Orleans and it has been stuck in his craw ever since. His version on The Valley is a bare bones beaut. Crockett learned his craft the hard way busking on streets and subways from L.A. and New Orleans to New York City and Europe to Northern Africa and The Valley draws from that journey, not to mention his hardscrabble beginnings in San Benito, Texas. Crockett also experienced a health scare earlier in the year requiring open heart surgery. Not surprisingly, it resulted in a life re-evaluation by him which also plays into the songs of The Valley. In total, the album’s diverse blend is geared to strike a chord in listeners. Recommended. Visit www.charleycrcokett.com.
Third Man Records
The 2nd country music-leaning signee to Jack White’s Third Man Records label after Margo Price, the singer, songwriter and fiddle player Lillie Mae actually began her Third Man career as a side person doing session work for the label. That led to her playing on White’s 2012 and 2014 tours and his solo albums. Playing music in a family band since a tyke, Mae already had plenty of performing miles under her belt when she signed to Third Man as a solo artist. Her 2017 debut for the label called Forever and Then Some received positive reviews aplenty for her honest songwriting and vocal talents. Possessing a striking soprano voice, it was an album firmly entrenched in the Americana country camp. Comprised entirely of original songs from Mae and produced by Grammy-winner Dave Cobb, her new album Other Girls expands the sonic palette with side trips into folk pop, rock and psych to go with her edgy brand of country. Stories of women, many the result of her own experiences from a life of playing music and the lifestyle that goes with it, lay the foundation for the songs of Other Girls. There is also a serious outlaw streak to her work with the overall landscape a mystical one displaying an artist in Mae whose evolution continues to impress. Visit thirdmanrecords.com.
(Dan Ferguson is a free-lance music writer and host of The Boudin Barndance, broadcast Thursday nights from 6 – 9 pm on WRIU-FM 90.3.)