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Sometimes the best creativity comes by accident while one is busy making other plans. While he works on his new album, the follow-up to 2020’s acclaimed Welcome to Hard Times, Charley Crockett recorded a song for The Next Waltz, Vol. 3 compilation, a project from Bruce Robison’s label. The song was Billy Swan’s 1974 country/pop crossover hit, “I Can Help.”
Crockett’s version will be available on all digital platforms on January 8, 2021 via The Next Waltz.
According to Crockett, “We showed up at the studio without any idea what we were gonna cut. Once we got in there I remembered this old Billy Swan number and I’d always wanted to record it. I think we got it in one or two takes. Like everything else at Bruce’s place, magic stuck to the tape.”
Crockett’s life story can almost seem to read as fiction. An actual descendent of Davy Crockett, Crockett was born to a single mother and grew up in a trailer in the Rio Grande Valley in Texas. He had run-ins with the law, and eventually busked on the streets of New Orleans and New York City for a decade. His travels also took him to Northern California and Morocco, before he returned to Texas and began the current phase of his life and career in the Deep Ellum neighborhood of Dallas. Just two years ago he survived life-saving open-heart surgery.
But as noted music writer Jewly Hight recently pointed out in Texas Monthly, what often gets overlooked “is how Crockett’s long and winding journey to a somewhat more conventional music career has shaped so much about his approach to American roots music. He has a street performer’s openness to using all the tools available to him to grab a crowd’s attention, an itinerant’s healthy skepticism toward (and sly critique of) the promise of prosperity, and a self-aware savvy that updates the vintage styles in his repertoire.”
“Charley Crockett is the perfect product of his times. Equal parts ’60s Nashville sound and itinerant street musician, part of what makes this music great. A voice you could believe, singing a simple song of incredible beauty,” says Robison, himself an estimable Texas singer-songwriter. “Being able to take a song that everyone knows like Billy Swan’s ‘I Can Help’ and making it his own is quite a feat. But his style is so instinctual and transparent in how so many genres come together in a believable way — it shows without a doubt how unbelievably cool both the song and Crockett are, in their own respective and timeless fashion.”