Charlie And The Regrets will perform on Tuesday, February 8 at White Oak Music Hall.Photo By Charlie Harrison
Nothing says Texas like good honky tonk music in a small bar where the band somehow manages to make the audience alternate between a sweet two step and drowning tears in their beers. Charlie and The Regrets have provided this quintessential Texas experience in and around Houston since 2014 and managed to capture that small bar feel on their latest release,Walking Away.
Prior to the pandemic, Charlie and the Regrets could be found playing on almost any day of the week. Their longstanding Thursday night residency at Shoeshine Charley’s Big Top Lounge provided a consistent late night spot for two steppers and a great opportunity to practice for the band.
“Honestly that’s how we picked up on all these songs together. It was a lot of fun and I have some really happy memories from those nights,” says Harrison of those late night Thursday gigs.
On Walking Away, released late last year, the band really gives a taste of what their live performances are like as the album was recorded in a live setting with all of the members working together to select the best captured performance for each track.
“We love playing live and a lot of my favorite records are some that were recorded live. It was fun to do it that way,” says Harrison. “It’s songs that we've played together for a while and its also some new songs that we are actually just starting to play and everybody worked on together.”
Though the album was started before the pandemic, once the venues all closed down Harrison and his band got together and worked on these tracks.
“Once the pandemic hit, I was home more and I had more time to fiddle with it and in some ways that was good and in some ways that made it take forever,” he says of the bands sophomore album.
Walking Away feels not only like a good night out, but shows off the warmth and connection between the band members. The closing track, “Mean When I Drink” is a cover of local singer songwriter Brad Boyer’s song off his 2011 album Carney’s Pub Blues, transports listeners right down to the funky Big Top Lounge complete with Harrison’s personalized zingers as he introduces the band.
“That one I wish we could have recorded it live at the Big Top but we played that track exactly as we would have if we were saying goodnight at the end of the night. I wanted to leave that one pretty raw and I’m hoping everyone will pick up that that's a live take because I want them to hear just how good everyone is on there,” says Harrison proudly.
Harrison has experienced some shifts in his band of Regrets but for the past few years he has maintained a solid crew with Isaias Gil on drums, John Shelton on guitar, Willy T. Golden on lap steel and Mark Riddell on bass.
As all band members are also touring members of other bands ranging from Black Flag to Cory Morrow, Harrison also counted on guest performers for the album including Paul Beebe, Libby Koch, Chris Ardoin and Derek Hames. No matter who is playing on the track, the camaraderie shines as brightly as their musicianship.
The instant country hit "These Boots" features Harrison reminiscing about the many phases and stages of life lived while walking in his favorite pair of boots. The song is a fun, lighthearted sing along where the band does just that.
“Part of the fun that you could not capture was just playing with your friends, which when everything is going good, that feels better than anything. That’s one that has been a real nice thing to have back.”
The jarring album cover and title itself refers to a serious car crash one previous band member miraculously walked away from after having an accident in the bands car they used to get around for gigs.
“All five of us and a PA in the back, I don't know how we got it all in there,” remembers Harrison. “You look at it and it's like a tragedy that didn't happen,” says Harrison of the photo used for the album.
Harrison and all of his bandmates and special guests on the album are part of the current continuation of Houston’s rich singer, songwriter history. Listening to their songs it’s clear that they take the task seriously.
“I do,” says Harrison of his commitment to songwriting. “I am fortunate all the guys in my band they love music and I love music and so we care. That's part of the reason that it feels scary putting it out and it takes forever to make, because we care. I love the music of the songwriters from Houston so to be thought among those kind of guys, that feels fantastic and that's what we want to do.”
Charlie and The Regrets will perform with Turnaways, A More Perfect Union and North By North on Tuesday, February 8 at White Oak Music Hall, 2915 N. Main, Doors open 7 p.m., $8-10.
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Gladys Fuentes is a first generation Houstonian whose obsession with music began with being glued to KLDE oldies on the radio as a young girl. She is a freelance music writer for the Houston Press, contributing articles since early 2017.