Austin troubadour Charley Crockett's overnight success was years in the making
Austin360 On The Record is a weekly roundup of new, recent and upcoming releases by local and Austin-associated recording artists.
Charley Crockett, “Music City USA” (Son of Davy/Thirty Tigers). Though he didn’t release his first album until he was in his 30s, Crockett has been remarkably prolific since his 2015 recorded debut, issuing 10 albums in a six-year span. He’d gradually been building a fan base with relentless touring, but everything finally clicked this year when he followed February’s acclaimed James Hand tribute with this 16-song set in September.
“Music City USA” topped the Americana Music Association’s radio chart shortly after its release and stayed there for several weeks; it’s currently still in the top 5. At the recent Americana Music Awards ceremony in Nashville, Crockett walked away with the coveted “Emerging Act of the Year” prize, beating out a field that included multiple-Grammy nominee Allison Russell and rising star Joy Oladokun. In October, Crockett played the Austin City Limits Music Festival, and the “Austin City Limits” TV episode he taped over the summer aired on PBS.
The success of “Music City USA” doesn’t so much indicate a big change from anything Crockett had done before; it’s more that critical-mass has accumulated from several years of mining a similar vein. Crockett’s specialty is putting a 21st-century spin on 20th-century classic American roots music, blending country, folk, blues and more in a way that’s retro in style but progressive in spirit.
Highlights include the opener “Honest Fight,” which sets the tone in old-school country with steady rhythms and glimmers of pedal steel; the title track's biting critique of the Nashville music industry (“I shouldn't have come here in the first place/ Folks in here don't like my kind”); “I Won’t Cry,” a soulful piano-based ballad with propulsive horn-section accents; and the album-closing cover of Henson Cargill’s 1967 chart-topper “Skip a Rope,” which sets dark societal themes against a children’s-game backdrop.
With noted Austin songwriter/producer Bruce Robison on-board as Crockett’s manager and a boatload of momentum going into 2022, the sky’s the limit for this native Texan who moved to Austin after years of traveling far and wide. Playing Dec. 29 at ACL Live. Here’s the video for the track “I Need Your Love”:
Patricia Vonne, “My Favorite Holiday.” In an article about Vonne’s new album, American-Statesman/Austin360 writer Deborah Sengupta Stith observed:
“Over a period of seven months through the spring and summer, as the world moved in and out of COVID-19 restrictions, her seasonal celebration came together in what Vonne thinks of as a series of small miracles. ... Her frequent collaborator, Rosie Flores, helped her write the rockabilly Christmas romp ‘Santa’s on a Rampage.’ Panamanian actor and musician Rubén Blades, whom she considers a hero, carved time out of his busy film schedule to record the duet ‘Las Posadas.’ Despite pandemic-mandated separations, arrangements came together easily. …
"The songs on ‘My Favorite Holiday’ are all originals, with one notable exception: Vonne’s four sisters went into four different studios in three different states to record harmonizing parts for a classic rendition of ‘Carol of the Bells.’ Their voices weave together in a playful a cappella, reminiscent of the family sing-alongs that defined Vonne’s childhood.”
Release show Nov. 27 at One-2-One Bar. Here’s the video for the track “My Favorite Holiday”:
Hovvdy, “True Love” (Double Double Whammy). The fourth full-length in five years from the indie-folk-pop duo of Charlie Martin and Will Taylor came out in October and may be their best to date. Working with producer Andrew Sarlo (known for his work with Big Thief, Courtney Marie Andrews and others), Hovvdy consistently enchants with richly melodic, mostly midtempo songs.
The pandemic apparently affected their creative process. In press materials accompanying the album, Martin and Taylor noted that the album grew out of “writing and recording songs for ourselves and loved ones. Spending less energy consumed with how people may respond freed us up to put our efforts into creating an honest, heartfelt album.”
The band, which sold out a record-release party last month on the Mohawk’s indoor stage, will spend much of early 2022 on tour in Europe and the U.S. before returning for a June 18 show at Antone’s. Here’s the video for the title track:
DEC. 2: Rick Furst, “The Riddle”
DEC. 3: Jason Boland & the Stragglers, “The Light Saw Me” (Thirty Tigers)
DEC. 3: Nori, self-titled, release show Dec. 10 at Central Market North
DEC. 3: Walter Daniels & the Del Valle Trustees, “Have a Coffee Break With”
DEC. 10: Bill Callahan & Bonnie Prince Billy, “Blind Date Party” (Drag City)
DEC. 18: Ben Brown, “Sayonara Sorrow,” and Jefferson Brown, “The French King Was Decapitated” (Shire), dual release show Dec. 18 at Sam’s Town Point
JAN. 14: Jamestown Revival, “Young Man” (Thirty Tigers), release show Jan. 14 at Gruene Hall
JAN. 21: Whitmore Sisters, “Ghost Stories” (Red House)
JAN. 21: Bruce Hughes, “Late Night Polaroids”
FEB. 11: Spoon, “Lucifer on the Sofa” (Matador)
MAY: Lyle Lovett, title TBA