Calling Charley Crockett a bit eccentric is more than an understatement. Everything from his wild youth spent strumming tunes for change to the 10-plus years of wandering that took him across the country and beyond is evidence enough of that. His history makes even more sense after you find out he’s related to former Tennessee congressman and Texas folk hero Davy Crockett.
His latest album, which was released Dec. 7, Lil G.L.'s Blue Bonanza, suggests they’d have similar tastes in music.
“We talk about the pop formula to the point where it almost means nothing, but there is a pop formula, which is popular music,” Crockett says. “And in the end it’s all really kind of based on gospel spirituals, traditional blues and folk.”
Much of Crockett’s music sounds like a mélange of all three genres, with just a touch of Texas flair and a slight Cajun drawl. He’s coming back to North Texas tomorrow night to play at Billy Bob’s Texas in Fort Worth, his first show after the release of his fifth studio album. The first entry in what he hopes becomes a regular series was 2017’s Charley Crockett presents Lil G.L.'s Honky Tonk Jubilee. The album unearthed a treasure trove of forgotten and classic tunes that snap as hard as they did coming out of cowboy bar jukeboxes more than 50 years ago, and the second is taking on the blues.
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But calling Blue Bonanza a cover album isn’t exactly correct. Crockett doesn’t look to emulate the likes of Del Reeves, George Jones and Curtis Harding across the album’s 15 tracks. This album instead revives and retells expertly crafted songs by experts in their craft. Some are true classics and others were forgotten by time. Both are lovingly retold through the lens of Crockett’s experience.
“I can spend the rest of my life just discovering the deep cuts of stuff that was all made before 1974. I’ll never find them all,” he says. “I feel like that about film, too, because I’m going to spend the rest of my life finding these hidden gems.”
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Thirty Tigers, a Nashville-based entertainment company, surely enjoyed finding those hidden gems back in 2017 when they released the first Lil G.L. album just one week after Crockett signed. He says that between Thirty Tigers sending his album to local radio DJs in Nashville and tracks landing in popular Spotify playlists, the album became his most successful to date. That’s pretty good for an album he says he recorded mostly for the fun of it.
“I never would’ve imagined that it would’ve been a bigger album than In the Night because that was a record of mostly originals and it was something I was really focused on,” Crockett says. “A lot of times, that’s kinda what happens — the stuff that you’re not putting all your marketing effort to, sometimes that’s the stuff that just clicks.”
Being able to exercise his desire to recreate the magic of these old songs would be reason enough for the series to continue. But the timelessness of these tracks and the authenticity of Crockett’s passion for these songs turn this album into a modern time capsule ready to be opened. His ability to mold these songs to his voice further elevates them and brings them back into the spotlight. Given the success he’s had so far, Crockett’s advice here is most likely sound.
“If I was going to give advice to people recording of any background, man, put your best originals on there, and when you’re out of originals or you don’t feel like it’s your best, put a few fucking really great songs on their that people know, or forgot but used to know, that you can do really, really well.”