Charley Crockett

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 To provide a safer environment for the public and significantly expedite fan entry into our venues, Rialto Theatre & 191 Toole have instituted a clear bag policy as of March 1st, 2022. The policy limits the size and type of bags that may be brought into our venues. The following is a list of bags that will be accepted for entry: Bags that are clear plastic or vinyl and do not exceed 12in x 6in x 12in One-gallon clear plastic freezer bags (Ziplok bag or similar) Small clutch bags, approximately 5in x 7in All bags subject to search. Clear bags are available for sale at the box office.

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ABOUT THE ARTIST

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 Charley Crockett has been a fairly remarkable artist to follow. He’s got a sound. He’s got something to say. He has a look. And there’s a gauzy veil of mystery surrounding him suggesting he knows more than he’s letting on.

 All those records in such a short amount of time have come with a “No Two Alike” guarantee, particularly the last three releases: the darkly prescient Welcome to Hard Times; the semi-autobiographical, hard-core country-roots of The Valley; and 10 for Slim, his tribute of songs by the obscure and wholly authentic Texas honky-tonk maestro James Hand.

 And still, despite his penchant for pearl snaps and western hats, Charley Crockett has managed to elude being pigeon-holed. Call him neo country-western if you’d like. It’s true that few contemporaries present themselves as part of a lineage harkening back to Hank Williams and George Jones like Charley does, and even fewer can pull it off convincingly.

 Call him a bluesman, if you prefer. One of Charley’s first recorded songs “Trinity River,” about that “dirty river” in North Texas, is the perfect bookend to “Trinity River Blues,” the first 78 issued by Oak Cliff blues guitar giant T-Bone Walker 92 years ago. Charley knows where genuine music comes from and doesn’t hesitate to mine each vein he digs up.

 His voice is one-of-a-kind. His distinctive, plaintive vocals crack unapologetically with emotion, and he phrases his lines around the beat like a jazz singer, while he expounds upon personal relationships and the world beyond.

 So, who is Charley Crockett?

 Which one are you talking about?

 The Lil’ G.L.’s Blue Bonanza Charley, or the Lil’ G.L.’s Honky Tonk Jubilee Charley? Or the Homeric “Jamestown Ferry” Charley? Is that new artist who graced the stage of the Grand Ole Opry the same cat who played the Newport Folk Festival?

 Best just to call Charley his own man.

 However one may strain to describe such an enigmatic figure and his equally enigmatic music, it’s pretty obvious Charley transcends stereotype. Whatever you might think he is or isn’t, he’ll change your mind with his next song. That’s part of the fun riding shotgun with Charley Crockett. You know he’s a skilled driver familiar with all the roads. You just don’t know exactly which one he’s taking, or where he’s taking you, only that the journey will be a pleasurable one.

 Now comes Charley’s tenth album in his six-year career. In the Crockett tradition, it is as ambitious and ground-breaking as each piece of recorded music he’s put out so far. And it’s not just an album. It’s a double LP of Charley Crockett originals, each song going the distance to further define this singer-songwriter-performer-artist who came out of the proverbial nowhere.

 Nowhere in Charley Crockett’s case would be San Benito, the largely Hispanic farming community in the Rio Grande Valley of extreme south Texas, his birthplace. He grew up poor in a trailer surrounded by cane fields and citrus groves, raised by a single mom. Fortunately for him, music was in the thick, humid Gulf air, because the Valley has a serious musical streak running through it. There’s a museum in San Benito honoring the father of conjunto accordion, Narciso Martinez. The likeness of Tex-Mex superstar and hometown hero Freddy Fender (nee Baldemar Huerta) graces the municipal water tower. Nearby Los Fresnos was hometown of Simon Vega, who served in the Army with Elvis Presley and built the Little Graceland shrine in tribute to his GI buddy.

 That Valley was a perfect petri dish for a little kid with wide eyes and good ears. He could be anyone he wanted to be in this remote part of the world. When his family moved to Dallas, city life was not so kind to the kid who looked and talked different. This was where he learned the hard way how impoverished his family really was. His escape was going to live with his uncle in New Orleans, where as a teenager he developed skills free-styling and rapping, and first began performing in the streets. That led to busking on the streets of New York once he was out on his own.

 He hustled hard to survive, living a transient life, taking whatever he needed, whenever he needed it, and hoping he wouldn’t get caught. He sold weed to get by, at one point working the harvest in clandestine marijuana fields in the northwest. Twice, he was convicted of a felony crime. Music provided the way out.

 At thirty-two, he got serious. Even then, he chose the more difficult path, releasing his records on independent labels and inventing and reinventing his persona with carefully crafted, well-produced music videos. That top ten hit record may still elude him, but he’s built quite a fan base on his own, all his own, touring as relentlessly as he makes records, investing considerable time and money in companion videos that cumulatively add up to close to 50 million views online.

 Charley has endured the collapse of the recording industry, no money, petty crime, societal ennui, the Covid-19 pandemic, open heart surgery, one-night stands, long distance rides in a van, loud truck stops and diners serving stale lukewarm coffee to get to where he is now.

 His reward – and yours – is this collection of Charley Crockett originals.

 Sad, uplifting, hard, and sweet, complex and delicate all at once, his songs are like life its ownself, just like the songs’ creator: like nothing you’ve heard or seen before, a genuine Texas original.

 JOE NICK PATOSKI

John Moreland @ 191 Toole

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***COVID POLICY***

As requested by the Artist, all patrons will be required to wear masks while attending an event unless actively enjoying a beverage. Additionally, proof of full COVID-19 vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test result within 48 hours will also be required. At-home tests can only be accepted with results given via an app (which includes your information). The test result will need to include your name and date of birth, and also have a time stamp so we can determine when the test was taken. It will be compared to your photo ID at the door.

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ABOUT THE ARTIST

WEBSITE | FACEBOOK  | INSTAGRAM | TWITTER 

John Moreland doesn’t have the answers, and he’s not sure anyone does. But he’s still curious, basking in the comfort of a question, and along the way, those of us listening feel moved to ask our own. “I don’t ever want to sound like I have answers, because I don’t,” he says. “These songs are all questions. Everything I write is just trying to figure stuff out.” Moreland is discussing his new album Birds in the Ceiling, a nine-song collection that offers the most comprehensive insight into the thoughts and sounds swimming around in his head to date. A compelling blend of acoustic folk and avant-garde pop playfulness, Birds in the Ceiling lives confidently in a space of its own, enriched by tradition but never encumbered by it. The songwriting that has stunned fans and critics alike since 2015’s High on Tulsa Heat remains potent, while the sonic evolution that unfolds on the record feels like a natural expansion of 2020’s acclaimed LP5. The New Yorker, Pitchfork, Fresh Air, Paste, GQ, and others have embraced Moreland’s meditative songs, while performances on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, CBS This Morning, NPR Tiny Desk Concert, and more have introduced Moreland to millions. And yet, while the Tulsa-based Moreland is grateful for the respect and musical conversation he’s now having with people around the world, he is also more focused on the idea of just talking to one person– –or even himself. “Through the years, I’ve felt like I’m increasingly talking to myself in my songs, more and more,” he says. “Maybe in the past, I wasn’t aware of it, but now, I am. I think doing that has helped me be less hard on myself, which makes you more generous and compassionate in general.” That helps explain why even if Moreland is reaching out to someone else, there is no judgment. “I’m in the same boat with whoever I’m talking to,” Moreland says. Moreland’s songs do feel intimate––like overheard conversations or solitary meditations. “I want to talk one-on-one to someone in a song,” he says. “I don’t want to address a group, really, because I think that’s when it’s easy to start pontificating––and it gets less honest.” On Birds in the Ceiling, Moreland’s singing contributes to the feelings of hushed intimacy. Wielding a warm, sandpaper soul voice, Moreland got used to singing loudly as he began playing in bars, fighting to be heard over chattering crowds. “When I first started singing, I was very selfconscious about it,” he says. “I think I tried to affect my voice more. Singing loud could be a security blanket sometimes. On the new album, on a lot of the songs I was definitely making a conscious effort to sing quieter––almost whisper.” Produced by Matt Pence and Moreland, Birds in the Ceiling is dynamic: a folk record that refuses to stay in its lane. It’s the second album for Pence with Moreland, who sees the former––a Denton, Texas-based engineer, producer, and drummer––as an ideal musical partner. “We have a lot of the same influences, and I have been really influenced by his bands,” Moreland says. “It feels really effortless.” Album opener “Ugly Faces” establishes the new instrumental ground Moreland is covering: piano and acoustic guitar are joined by drum break and percussive electronic chirps then swells as Moreland’s familiar voice delivers questions, observations, and apologies. “I got used to shutting off parts of myself and feeling like, ‘Well, I’m this kind of artist, so this part of me and that part of me don’t fit––I’m going to leave them out,” Moreland says of the record’s arrangements. “On this album, I really just wanted to throw that rule out completely. Anything I’m into or that has moved me is fair game.” Cue 90s roots pop: Moreland mentions Sarah McLachlan and Sheryl Crow as influences, then points to the pioneering sampling from the 80s and 90s, as well as the hooks of Janet Jackson. “I feel like I’m old enough now to say, ‘I love pop,’” he says––then laughs a little. “Lion’s Den” underscores the pop point: A mathy electronic beat kicks off the song before Moreland’s gorgeous acoustic guitar playing, nimble but lush, sweeps listeners away. The lyrics explore feelings of displacement and connection––then disconnection. “I think most of the album lyrically is about alienation and isolation––really about what my wife and I were going through during the pandemic,” Moreland says. “Not really relating to the pandemic itself so much, but just the circumstances we were both going through with family and friends, which was all colored through this terrifying, dystopian lens.” Crunchy drum machine claps give way to menacing acoustic guitar on “Cheap Idols Dressed in Expensive Garbage.” Moreland wrote the song after a friend introduced him to a social media account that highlights pastors wearing designer clothes. “It feels like things just continue to get harder for working people,” he says. “It’s hard to afford life these days.” Moreland points to “Generational Dust”––a moving portrait of the complicated relationship with roots and place––as an album favorite. A gentle showcase of Moreland’s accomplished acoustic guitar playing, “Dim Little Light” taps into the bigness of universal connection and the smallness of individual perspective. While Moreland no longer considers himself religious, the concepts and language picked up during his Bible Belt upbringing emerge in his songs, recast in new, independent musings about self-acceptance, honest questions, and hope––but never as answers. ““At this point in my life, I’m quite comfortable with the mystery of it all,” Moreland says. “Claim Your Prize” packs a heartbreaking punch, tucked into upbeat guitar strums and a mournful chorus. Moreland’s guitar playing stands out throughout the record. “I wanted to expand my guitar playing on this album,” he says. “I played all the guitars, and I just wanted to approach it with more compositional intent.” The beautiful “Neon Middle June” explores the connection that deepened between Moreland and his wife during the pandemic, when they were “holed up together, home all the time, and it was just weird and lovely.” Pianist John Calvin Abney’s jaw-dropping arrangement and playing happened by chance: He sat down to warm up for the song in the studio, not realizing tape was rolling. The freewheeling, abstract keys perfect the song’s lovely weirdness. The album’s title track is the graceful closer, pensive, breathtaking, and brimming with hope and gratitude. “The last verse is really about learning not to impose your own essences and projections onto things, and to just let things be what they are,” Moreland says. Letting things just be what they are is a powerful guiding force for Moreland, determining not just how he interacts with others, but how he treats himself. “When you remove boundaries and instead of holding back parts of yourself––when you say, ‘Okay, I’m going to put all of me into this,’” Moreland says, “You end up making music that nobody else could make.”