Eight months after having heart surgery for a condition which threatened to derail him permanently, Charley Crockett seems fully recovered judging by the marathon set he played to a packed out Glasgow audience. Backed by the superb Blue Drifters, their name only the first of many Hank Williams’ nods throughout the night, Crockett took us on a roller coaster 90 minutes of country, blues, folk and soul; his Texas and Louisiana roots guiding him all the way.
A brief instrumental intro led into a pistol packed flurry of songs with the band hardly taking breath until, after an explosive cover of The Race Is On, Crockett paused to say hello. By then we had seen and heard some of the variety of sounds Crockett and his Drifters can conjure with Charlie Mills, playing keyboards, trumpet and accordion adding to the colour. Next up was a real crowd favourite as they slinked into I Am Not Afraid, the audience singing along, while Crockett transformed the cellar space into a honky tonk with everyone clapping along to Borrowed Time. Introducing the title song from his forthcoming album, The Valley, Crockett spoke of his surgery and his need to lay down the song as, “I was maybe scheduled to die.” Having death knock on your door might not be the most pleasurable experience but it did inspire what is a great song with all the virtues of a classic.
Given the very cramped stage space, the band managed to reshuffle their line up to stand around an old fashioned mic for a short “unplugged” song session to deliver an excellent brace of folky songs including Banjo Picking Man, A Stolen Jewel and Single Girl before Crockett did a couple of songs solo, Nine Pound Hammer being a bit of a barnstormer. The band crept back on to deliver an instrumental in a David Lynch lounge bar style before gearing up for the show’s lengthy finale which saw Crockett delving into blues and soul with some Texas sass. They ripped through L’il Girl’s Name and No Time To Lose while Ain’t Gonna Worry came across as if Bobby Bland was singing from the stage and the set closed with a rousing Going Back To Texas which recalled the late Doug Sahm’s many salutes to his home state.
There had to be an encore given the rapturous applause and Crocket reappeared giving us the driving narrative of 7 Come 11, another song from the new album. The band then reappeared as Crockett satisfied the numerous requests for Jamestown Ferry which had been thrown at him through the night. Another mass sing-along, it was an excellent end to what was a barnstorming performance.
As we said, the joint was jumping and packed to the gills and there was even a surprising number of folk gathered at the start of the evening for the support act, southern California’s Jaime Wyatt whose mini album, Felony Blues made a splash around two years ago. That disc basically recounted her time as a convicted felon in California penitentiaries – (she robbed her drug dealer and did time for it) – and here she was live, dedicating songs to the LA County jail and describing her time there as like being in a resort, “They gave me three square meals a day, did my laundry and even gave me free rides to the court.”
It was a short set with several songs drawn from Felony Blues, kicking off with the high country sounds of Wishing You Well and then the tough Waylon Jennings’ like Stone Hotel. Giving Back The Best Of Me glided along to start with before the band (her regular UK based backing guys) kicked in giving the song more muscle than the recorded version. Away from the album, Wyatt announced, “Here’s a song about whisky and blow,” as they launched into the badass Ain’t Enough Whiskey, another ornery and mean country rocker while she dedicated By Your Side to the late Neal Casal who laid down guitar when she recorded the song. Hurt So Bad, another new song, was like a raunchy Dolly Parton number, but it was the closing number, Wasco, with a lengthy preamble regarding Wyatt’s cell mate’s jail romance which crowned her set. This was real punchy outlaw country and we could have listened to Ms. Wyatt for twice as long had she not had to curtail it there. An excellent match for the headliner, Wyatt complemented Crockett’s set perfectly and it was cool to see her merch line matching his at the end of the night. These two plus hours of modern, hard hitting, country music perhaps bode well for the genre and we haven’t even mentioned the classy, sharp pressed western suits and impressive hats worn by Wyatt and Crockett. We’ll leave that to the fashion pages.