When I found Charley Crockett backstage at The Long Road festival, he’d already performed one of his two shows that day. And rumbles were already going around the Leicestershire site about what a stellar, memorable show it had been.
It’s not just his bright red Nudie-style suit – a gift from his home city of Austin – that makes him memorable. For some it’s his dad jokes (“If you don’t like my music, come make a donation so I can get some lessons”), for me (having seen him a week earlier in Denmark) his dance break interludes stick in my mind. But showmanship aside, it’s his distinctive musical fusion of Texas and Louisiana which helps him to stand out as much as his elaborate attire.
“I lived partially in Louisiana a lot of my life and I’ve lived all over America but I’m back in Austin now.
In Texas and Louisiana there’s more flavour…
New Orleans, Dallas, Houston, Austin; these towns are so diverse. You have the European, Latino, black African sounds, the street culture of southern Louisiana, creole and Cajun culture, and the music that comes in from the rural regions like the gulf coast. The traditional stuff all comes together; there’s no place like that in the world.”
Now, in the middle of England, Charley feels the responsibility to bring this whole melting pot of influences on stage with him, and to challenge the Texas stereotypes I’ll admit to having on this side of the Atlantic.
“There’s just a certain image of Texas country that is just this little, tiny thing compared to what we have to offer.
Texas is a place of diversity, but that’s not the image that’s seen out there.
I feel like in America overall, the younger generations are not being represented. We’re changing culturally and the older generations are really slow to catch up with that. I come out here and want people to know what young Texas is about, and just how beautiful it can be.”
From what I see on the Front Porch stage later that night, Charley’s on track for this personal mission. His sets flip between bluegrass, blues, New Orleans style brass and reworkings of soulful country standards. His band, the Blue Drifters, are a multi-cultural ensemble who it seems can turn their hand to any genre – including one musician who specialises in playing two instruments at the same time. Their set inspires couples to two-step at the back of the crowd and three ladies to practice their line-dancing off to the side of the stage.
His easy style on stage has been forged on the streets, busking in France and on the New York Subway, and dancing in front of bands on Louisiana street corners – although Charley tells me; “I still can’t two-step”, so I suggest the lessons happening at The Long Road that afternoon.
With such a diverse range of geographical influences, when I ask which one song would best reflect his music, for the first time Charley seems stumped and starts to look a bit like the ‘mind-blown’ emoji;
That’s like telling somebody with 10 children to pick their favourite one!”
Eventually he settles on I Wanna Cry because it shows off his heritage and traditional roots, but he warns me; “I’ll probably say something different if you ask me tomorrow.”
The decision is only going to get harder for Charley since has a new 16-track album ‘The Valley’ out next week (and released in the UK November 22nd). That’s 16 autobiographical tracks, promising to draw on as many life experiences and musical influences as his The Long Road sets.
Did you catch Charley live on any of his UK tour dates? Let us know what you thought.