The Boston Phoenix
January 1 - 8, 1998

[Music Reviews]

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*** Rockie Charles



After 36 years guiding barges and tankers up and down the Mississippi, Rockie Charles left his job as a tugboat captain to grab the guitar full time. Regardless of who he was born to be, on his debut album, Charles sounds as if he's spent as much time in the jukehouse as the pilothouse. And in church. His arrangements, built around simple guitar rhythms, strongly feature the organ. And at age 54, he can make his voice flutter around high notes like a backwater Al Green. The title track recalls "Let's Stay Together" in its melody line; "Something Is Wrong with Our Love" feels as much gospel as secular heartbreaker. He pleads, he testifies, and cries out for love and understanding -- keeping things simple and soulful. An out-of-character paean to Festis, marshal Dillon's sidekick from the TV series Gunsmoke, is the kind of odd twist that proves Charles is a real bluesman. (Remember, Howlin' Wolf used to perform an instrumental version of "Ode to Billie Joe.") This is a warm and winning first effort.

-- Ted Drozdowski
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