CRASH: High Wall

Crash, aka Christopher Richard, may be named like a demolition derby king, but he sings like an angel. His day job is celestial back-up singer/percussionist for Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeroes but his nights belong to Crash. Earlier this summer he released Hardly Criminal, his debut solo album, on Community Records. You don’t need to read his bio (SEE BELOW) to grok the sad-eyed beauty of this song, but it sure explains a lot, not the least of which is this: A NOLA native having fled Katrina, Crash was literally living in a cave in Laurel Canyon when he met up with the Edward Sharpe peeps. Discuss.

“I hope my songs evoke the same laissez-faire I grew up witnessing and am always jonesing to be around. My lyrics are simply a diary telling the story of my history; boating in Lake Maurepas in the pouring rain, listening to George Jones and eating chili beans in muddy clothes, hearing Robicheaux sing the blues from the sidewalk, gutter-punks busking anti-war folk standards on Royal, Baptist gospel healings, the erotic passions of Bourbon Street and Storyville, hearing that riverboat calliope up and down the Mississippi all day long like a wind chime in the breeze…”

Crash’s story unfolds with that particularly Southern swagger and wit, a tale of a Louisiana boy bred on Waffle House breakfasts and monster truck rallies, local rodeos and the flicker of family bonfires. As a youth he pulled slingshots and shot bb’s at the Popcorn trees, swam, fished and stomped his feet to the tune of his own Pawpaw’s country band.

As adolescence crept in, Crash found he had an itch for singing, passing through the French Quarter to learn at the feet of the New Orleans’ legendary street performers, a young man searching for inspiration among the sodden Voodoo alleys of America’s most soulful city. Later, he would steal his Mom’s car to play the open mic nights at The Neutral Ground Coffeehouse, or to sneak into Nick’s on Tulane, or shoot pool at Dixie Tavern. He started a folk act, a punk group and finally, just after high school, started singing on the regular and was appointed “Congregational Song Leader” in a Southern Louisiana Gospel Choir, which had him performing for hundreds at a time.

There was college for a hot minute, there was a move to the Irish Channel, there was the soaking in of all that is New Orleans, wet heat and Sazeracs, the wailing horns of jazz funerals, the teetering handmade floats of Mardi Gras, crawfish and etouffee and howling at the moon. There was work where he could get it, toiling as a PA on the studio sets, Hollywood coming south for the tax credits. ?It was on these film productions where Crash earned his nickname, something to do with a questionable work ethic and repetitive tardiness (he admits you’d have to ask one Ms. Rita Wilson for the real deal details). And yet despite his reputation (or perhaps because of it), he was anointed “assistant” to Johnny Knoxville during The Dukes of Hazzard’s run. (One can only imagine…)

Then, the rains came, Katrina bearing down hard and fast and the New Orleans that he once knew vanishing forever under poisoned water. Lost, Crash reached out to his pal Knoxville, who responded with an offer of help – a job, a place to lay his head– an invite to head west, to Cali. And so he packed his guitar and went, straight into the heart of Tinseltown, to the sweet promise of a Golden State.

Crash brought his music with him, quickly joining the critically adored local act Deadly Syndrome as lead singer and frontman, bringing his gris gris into the beautiful belly of the L.A. beast. Since then, Crash has been barreling ahead, recording prolifically with Deadly Syndrome, working with famed producer Daniel Lanios, composing a live stage score, acting in a few national commercials, and finally, after Deadly disbanded in 2013, heading out on the road with his pals, Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros, as percussionist and angelic vocal accompaniment.

And somewhere in that heady mix…in that combination of the rolling road, of California eucalyptus sway and dark NOLA mysteries, he discovered his true self– the wild-eyed, sly-tongued, strutting, winking and wonderful ‘crash’ of this here solo debut. ?Produced and engineered by the multitalented Ed Sharpe lead guitarist, Mark Noseworthy, (and featuring friends from the Zeros, Dawes, The Mystic Valley Band and more…) Hardly Criminal is the culmination of all that is strange and sad, hilarious and harmonious, about crash’s own true tale. It is story – moving, funny, weird, and stunningly beautiful.

You can hear the South, yes, Neville swing and Dr. John ju-ju, but you can also hear smooth soul, booty funk, and ragged folk, a mix of sounds taken from his past and pushed into the future, all accompanied by a deadpan storytelling prowess and a voice like a Cajun Prince (as in “The Artist Formerly Known As”). Hardly Criminal is the sum of Crash’s best parts – the sonic celebration of his story so far. So, set down a spell, cool yer bones, cher… and listen.