Not too bad for a $10 cowboy: Charley Crockett live at the Forum

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Not too bad for a $10 cowboy: Charley Crockett live at the Forum

charley crockett
Photo: Danysha Harriott
Words by Danysha Harriott

My introduction to Charley Crockett took place nearly a year ago, during his inaugural Australian tour and my induction to the Texan troubadour’s musical universe.

 Both of us, newcomers to each other’s domains, embarked on an exploration of unfamiliar territory together. Our initial encounter evidently left a lasting impression, as Crockett has returned to Australian shores for his second tour, and I found myself front and centre at the first of his two nights at the Forum.

Before Crockett took to the stage, the highly revered and award-winning singer-songwriter, Emma Donovan, primed the audience for a night of country and soul that would inevitably consume the cowboy-hat-laden room. With a voice as commanding as it is comforting, Donovan delivered poignant messages and tales with each song.

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Donovan and her four-piece band effortlessly navigated between classics, including her grandfather Micko Donovan’s Miracle Man, and unreleased tracks like Until My Song is Done, a preview from her upcoming album slated to release in two months.

Closing out her set, Donovan recounted a story of when she was young (“not that long ago”, as she stated with a smile) and expressed the importance that country music had on her life. “Country will always be in my blood” she proclaimed, before dedicating her rendition of Tammy Wynette’s Your Good Girl’s Gonna Go Bad to her mother. To label Donovan’s performance as anything less than “the real deal” would be an injustice.

The man of the hour—or, two hours as I would come to learn after a five-song encore—then took to the stage, dressed in sleek black attire, and of course, donning a sizable white cowboy hat that complimented his boots. Crockett and his band, the Blue Drifters, aptly outfitted in matching blue button-ups, opened with $10 Cowboy, the first single from his upcoming album due for release on April 26th.

Following a run of songs, including That’s What Makes the World Go Round, a collaboration Crockett penned and performed alongside Willie Nelson, Crockett took a moment to profess his excitement to be back in Australia. “It beats the hell outta Europe. You can tell your parents I said so!”. He confessed that visiting Australia had been a longstanding desire, dating back before his initial tour in 2023. “The first time [didn’t work because] I had to get open heart surgery—sorry about that”.

Beyond his journey as a musician, Crockett’s story is one of resilience, having transitioned from being unhoused and busking on the streets of New Orleans, and yes, even undergoing open heart surgery. “Back when I was getting started on the street corners, any wild story you heard about me goin’ around was true. I did it. It’s true.”

With the crowd hanging on every word, Crockett took the opportunity to introduce new tracks from his forthcoming album. Among them was Hard Luck & Circumstances, in which he sings “When it comes to trouble I got perfect timing/All the stars just align”. In this song, Crockett’s lyrics intertwine themes of adversity and timing, mirroring the challenges he’s confronted in his 39 years.

Crockett couldn’t resist repeatedly showering his bandmates with praise throughout the evening. Composed of Kullen Fox, piano, trumpet, accordion; Colin Colby, bass; Nathan Fleming, pedal steel; Alexis Sanchez, guitar; and Mayo Valdez, drums, each member proved to be adept at handling multiple instruments, showcasing a remarkable lineup of seven. With Crockett contributing his electric guitar, acoustic guitar and banjo to the mix, this rounded out the total to ten.  

Upon concluding a five-song encore, which included a striking solo performance of Killers of the Flower Moon, Crockett bid the crowd farewell with a promise to return and a pledge that the next encounter would be “twice as good”.

As he walked backstage and the Blue Drifters played their final chords, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of anticipation for the next chapter in our musical journey together. No longer separated by unfamiliar territories, Charley Crockett’s music had become a bridge spanning the miles between us.

Catch Charley Crockett and the Blue Drifters again tonight at the Forum before heading to Perth for the last stop of the “Live Across Australia” tour. Tickets here