Charley Crockett has recorded his first new music since undergoing heart surgery at the beginning of 2019, and it’s a twofer, with a pair of soulful new tracks, “How Low Can You Go” and “River of Sorrow,” that were recorded for Bruce Robison’s The Next Waltz series.
The Texas blues singer has been laying low since an operation in January to fix a life-threatening abnormality — one of the chambers in his heart wasn’t functioning — that doctors predicted would have been fatal within the next 12 months. Crockett, who played more than 200 shows in 2018, doesn’t sit still for long though, and the self-described “country soul” of “How Low Can You Go” is one of two new original recordings that he cut at Robison’s Bunker recording studio in Lockhart, Texas, outside Austin, during his convalescence.
“I wrote ‘How Low Can You Go’ with Kullen Fox, who’s in the band and plays a lot of instruments,” Crockett says about the track, which is built on a warm groove with pin-prick guitar and an organ that swells up on the chorus. “We were on the road somewhere in an RV and Kullen was humming just a couple bars of something along the lines of ‘how low can you go.’ I just kinda grabbed it and kept it going. Sometimes all you need is a line like that.”
Typical of Crockett’s writing, “How Low Can You Go” not only resonates with his own life, but transforms the hardship of its lyrics with its upbeat melody — something that’s even more true of the gospel cut “River of Sorrow.” Here he leans into his Southern drawl while Fox’s accordion weaves in and out around him. “River of Sorrow” was co-written by Kyle Madrigal. “When I say we ‘wrote’ it, I mean we were singing and clapping and remembering it all in our heads. Can’t say I’ve ever really written much of this down,” Crockett muses. “It’s a song of struggle and redemption, pure and simple.”
The two new songs will be pressed as a 45 single and see an official release during South by Southwest next week in Austin, when Crockett will also make his return to the stage post-surgery. He’ll play the Revival at Camp Lucy in Dripping Springs on March 13th, before a release show during the Next Waltz Family Jamboree at the Pershing on March 15th. Crockett returns to touring in April.