In “Don’t Cry,” Charley Crockett Is Always Coming Back Home

"I believe country fans have more eclectic tastes than they are given credit for," he says.

From the white desert sands to a rugged mountain range, and even near the crashing waves on the coast, Charley Crockett is sending a message: Don’t cry, he’s always coming back home. Framed with a honky-tonk piano arrangement, it’s a poignant message that will be familiar to anyone who makes a living on the road — whether as a musician, a truck driver, or traveling executive.

A perceptive Texas songwriter who’s equally interested in the visual side of his art, Crockett injects the video for “Don’t Cry” with exquisite and interesting imagery — a woman in red who’s never quite in focus, a jeweled medallion that may be an eagle or phoenix, and a graveyard that compels him to run. What does it mean?

That may be up to the viewer to decide. Crockett says, “I made the film to accompany the song. Some folks like to say I can’t ride a horse. Then when I ride a horse, they say they don’t like the way I ride. Seems like I’ve heard that kind of talk all my life. Maybe it ain’t about riding horses at all. Maybe it’s about something else.”

Crockett recorded his upcoming album, Welcome to Hard Times, in Valdosta, Georgia, and wrote “Don’t Cry” with Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys. These may strike some as unusual moves, but that’s par for the course with Charley. Most of the twists and turns of his life have been unpredictable, from losing a sister to addiction to nearly dying himself from a rare heart condition.

“I’ve gotten more than my fair share of raw deals in my thirty six years. But I don’t let hard luck own me,” he says.

He’s also a twice-convicted felon who’s sung on the Grand Ole Opry, and his mixed ancestry has become increasingly topical between his prior album, 2019’s The Valley, and the release of Welcome to Hard Times at the end of this month.

“My entering country music has been controversial to say the least but I believe country fans have more eclectic tastes than they are given credit for,” Crockett states. “My country music is inspired by what I played in the subway car so I could eat, in the French Quarter in ragtag bands. I sat in pastures on farms across this country putting it all together into my own sound.”

He adds, “I don’t like labels but if that ain’t country I don’t know what is. Though I’ve benefited greatly from my whiteness, I have never fully identified with any race. So I’ve lived as an outcast at war with myself in a society that I both love and hate at the same time. My music tells this story. If you don’t know how race or class affects experience, it’s the first sign of privilege.”

Take a look at “Don’t Cry,” then read our interview with Charley Crockett below the player.

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