The Valley (and Other Biographical Tunes) (Son of Davy)
Reviewed by Thomas Fawcett, Fri., Dec. 13, 2019
A week before open-heart surgery, 35-year-old Texas troubadour Charley Crockett entered the studio to record a sketching of his hardscrabble life story. Best to get it down for posterity, just in case. Crockett not only survived, but produced another landmark in his ascendant career. Over aching pedal steel guitar, the title track retraces its author's steps from San Benito to Dallas: "My daddy didn't know me, my brother rolled the dice/ My mama kept on working, and my sister paid a price." Crockett dabbles in roots music of all kinds – blues, zydeco, and R&B, with "If Not the Fool" summoning a soul tune dressed in boots and a 10-gallon hat – but The Valley ponies up a pure honky-tonk affair. Take "10,000 Acres," perfect in its unhurried pauses, which places pain and pity on a pinpoint: "I've got a dollar in my pocket, it won't help me much in bringing back your love/ But if you selling heartache, then I'm buying." "Excuse Me" doubles down, but it's not all sadass songs. Crockett, who spent years busking, hitchhiking, and train hopping, takes us down dusty roads and lonesome highways on "Motel Time Again" and "The Way I'm Livin' (Santa Rosa)." Life on the road ain't easy, but Crockett remains grateful all the same: "If the way I'm living seem like just a mess, believe me I would choose this life over the rest."