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Rockie Charles - Born for You [REVIEW - Blues Access]

Orleans 1911

And now for something completely different ... Not since Al Green and Willie Mitchell's peak years at Hi Records has this brand of laid-back Southern soul been put on record. Possessing an other-worldly falsetto that would fool Green's own mama, Rockie Charles has a genius for simple, melancholic melodies that let his voice cast a balmy spell. If there was a mainstream radio outlet for this music today, Charles could easily have two or three hit singles off Born for You.

Charles has lived most of his life in the New Orleans area, where he first became a tug boat captain at the age of 18 -- a job he still holds. In between he has played his music in local clubs, fraternities and as back-up to stars like O.V. Wright, Percy Sledge, Little Johnny Taylor and Otis Redding. The story goes that an ad Charles placed in a local artist directory caught the eye of Orleans Records producer Carlo Ditta and led to this recording. How the hell do guys with this much talent go unnoticed for 30 years?

Besides handling the vocals, Charles laid down all the guitar tracks and wrote all 11 songs. Most of them are intensely personal and often take the form of what seem like extended vocal improvisations over long organ chords and a lazy backbeat. It seems that time and again the lesson in all great art is the beauty that is born of simplicity. While I found every tune offered up its own particular sweet surprise, there are some timeless gems amongst them.

The title song has a killer horn hook that lingers in mind long after the music stops and, at barely under three minutes, in a just world would be a smash single in a league with Green's "Let's Stay Together." Then there's "Festis Believe in Justice," about the Cheyenne sheriff and his horse, Daniel, a tongue-in-cheek lark that ends way too soon after only two minutes. "I Like to Make Love When It's Pouring Down Rain" is another playful bit of songwriting, and Charles closes out the album with the aching and haunting "There Is a Rainbow Hangin' Over My Shoulder." I found myself often being reminded of the late Arthur Alexander by Charles' intimate storytelling and simple melodies.

I hope this album garners all the critical acclaim it so richly deserves and that Rockie Charles is around long enough to make up for all the years that we've missed.

-- Jack Oudiz

 

Originally published in Blues Access #30 (Summer '97), pg. 72-73


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