Originally released in 1972 on Bearsville Records, Bobby Charles’ self-titled album is a brilliant collection of swamp-rock and americana. With a backing band including Rick Danko, Levon Helm, Garth Hudson and Richard Manuel of the Band, the Louisiana singer’s lone record is split between upbeat grooves and soulful ballads. Recording sessions primarily took place at Bearsville studios, located just west of Woodstock. Long after he’d gain notoriety for his 1956 hit ‘See You Later, Alligator,’ Charles relocated to Woodstock, eventually linking up with Dylan manager Albert Grossman. Often referred to as the lost Band record, a lack of definitive song credits still begs the question of who played what all these years later. The credits simply read, ‘All Musical Arrangements Homemade.’ Charles, who also performed with the Band for their farewell concert The Last Waltz, passed away in 2009 at the age of 71. Now available on vinyl for the first time thanks to Light In The Attic, his music continues to win over the hearts of musicians who carry on his spirit.
I was introduced to this record via Andy Cabic of folk group Vetiver. There is a video of Andy performing ‘I Must Be In A Good Place Now’ with Eric Johnson of the Fruit Bats which I’ve probably watched a thousand times. It is a record I turn to often, especially during the transition between summer and fall. During a recent kayaking trip around the Delaware Water Gap, the record served as a perfect soundtrack for the changing of seasons. On personal favorite ‘Small Town Talk’ Charles sings ‘you can’t believe everything you hear / and only half of what of you see.’ For me it is a reminder to ask questions, to make sure I am forging my own path and attempting to uncover hidden meaning even in the every day.