The terrain of life is such that, at some point, everyone travels across rocky ground. We all grapple with the loss of loved ones, with broken-down cars, illness and unexpected bills, relationship tumult, and unwanted demands on our time. On the flip side, we all speed down similar, happier stretches of life’s highway. As Rhode Island-based country singer-songwriter Charlie Marie, who made her bones at Belmont University in Nashville, puts it in “Countryside,” “We’re all stars in a different show, singing along with the radio, all the same different shades of gray just trying to enjoy the ride.”
Last Sunday, my plan for this morn – yes, I sometimes think ahead – was to expound on “Hello Sunshine,” the new Bruce Springsteen track released from his forthcoming Western Stars album, and E Street Radio, the Bruce Springsteen channel on SiriusXM. But, that night, I read this review on Highway Queens about Charlie Marie’s eponymous EP, and then gave it a listen on my way to work the next day.
The opener, “Rhinestone,” is built off an iconic quote from Dolly Parton – “it’s hard to be a diamond in a rhinestone world” – and is a wry and sly parable about being true to one’s self. As with the songs that follow, it’s accented by Charlie Marie’s Northeastern twang; the quivers and quavers of her vocals sink into the soul like the warmth of the sun. At times, she conjures a young Emmylou. Here’s “Rodeo”…
She has one of those voices, in other words. Listening this morning to her first two releases – another self-titled EP from 2015 and Chucktown Takes, a stripped-down live set from 2018 that was recorded at a South Carolina AirBnB – one can hear her evolution as an artist. The one constant: Her vocals.
Here’s a cool track-by-track breakdown of the EP that she made with her grandmother, who introduced her to Patsy Cline.
(Just as an aside, her accent reminds me of Midge Maisel’s – a good thing!)
The song she references as her favorite on the EP, “Shot in the Dark,” is a gem. Here she is is in an NYC subway station singing it – check out the glorious echo.
There’s an age-old show-biz quote that it’s always best to leave the audience wanting more. Whether true or not, it’s safe to say that’s how you’ll feel once the EP comes to an end – 18 (or so) minutes just isn’t enough. Here’s looking forward to Charlie Marie’s next release…
(You can buy the EP, along with Charlie Marie’s previous two offerings, from her BandCamp page.)