Artist: Charley Crockett
Album: 10 For Slim: Charley Crockett Sings James Hand
Label: Son of Davey & Thirty Tigers
Release Date: 26/02/2021
Country: United States
One thing I’ve always loved with country and at the same time been confused by, is how you’re never quite sure if you’re hearing an original or a version passed down through time. Charley Crockett waltzes in this tradition with another instalment of his Lil’ L.G series and, this time round, takes a more sincere approach. 10 For Slim is an entire record in which Crockett crafts a musical memorial to his recently passed friend James ‘Slim’ Hand.
Hand has been bestowed ‘the real deal’ seal of approval and in a genre that treats authenticity as paramount, hardly a greater honour could be laid.
The intro lays out an image of a man with tears in his eyes, performing on stage and on the rest of these tight ten tracks, you can understand why. These songs are steeped in some simple yet deep emotional turmoil. Easy to follow stories of heartbreak, depression, and plenty of frequented dive bars have been plucked from James Hand’s discography by Crockett. In passing down the tradition I mentioned earlier, these songs are given new life while honouring legacy all of it taking place in the same dive bar.
After a spoken word intro, Midnight Run bounds off in an attempt to flee and forget its own past. Not one to match Hand’s viscous drawl where worlds mould into one, Crockett plays it with more dynamics. Those dynamics are reciprocated throughout this record. Lap steels weep and moan alongside tender vocals. A lonely barroom piano joins our sad souls on Just A Heart while a nylon guitar puts its arm around its steel compadre to shed a tear together. 10 For Slim’s must dive starts welcoming new patrons with strings on In The Corner, fleshing out the area in which we’re not sat. Eventually we’re introduced by name to a ramshackle support network on Over There There’s Frank. In all these musical comings and goings, Crockett conveys everything with a sombre, nigh cathartic croon. His phrasing and tone remains conversational all along. You end up feeling as though you’re consoling a friend post-relationship breakdown and helping them on their way to betterment.
Don’t Tell Me That stands out like a sore thumb in the context of the record but is fun all unto itself. Steam whistle emulating lap steels and mischievous shrill pianos spike the energy before this record’s tent pole, Lesson In Depression. Much like Heads You Win off Crockett’s album last year, this is pure song writing brilliance. Basic verse-chorus-bridge-repeat formula wrapped up in guitars that mirror the vocal melody and narrating a no-frills story. It’s a perfect song. Strung out, shambolic and possibly hungover but with a reconciliation, albeit a morose one. Guitars warble while slow, flabby percussion thumps like a headache. Crockett works through his register here, really driving home this song’s weight. Number ten plods along at a toe tapping pace as it encourages all patrons who have entered to this point to join in for one final sing along. Each instrument we shared space which comes back in a bittersweet send off.
At times, you do feel as though you’re eavesdropping on a conversation between two close friends. In others you feel like you’re the one letting your dear friend vent. Before 10 For Slim I hadn’t heard of James Hand. I did know Charley Crockett though and that’s the way of the tradition. Country mixes contemporary with the past and as long as these tales are retold, legends wont be forgotten. The Gold Ballroom remains eternal and so does this dusty dive bar.
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