Written by James Killen
Chuck is a Texas phenomenon. He blew in out of the Texas panhandle, signed up for the Marine Corp, saw the world, and completed his twenty years (and a tad more) as a combat marine. He learned to play guitar while in the corps, but he brought his voice with its signature vibrato and his love of country music with him. He honed his talent in Austin and now this man’s second career is in full swing with his second album.
Fire Out of Stone brings together Hawthorne associates, Walt Wilkins, Libby Koch, Ray Bonneville as well as a host of fine musicians in a production by Wilkins and Ron Flynt. It’s hard to believe that it has been five years since the release of Silver Line, a Ray Bonneville production, but it seems that Chuck used the time wisely to put together a superb sophomore album.
The disc starts with “Such is Life (C’est la Vie)” about an aging daredevil finding freedom riding an old motorcycle and playing songs. He follows with “Amarillo Wind” about that constant companion blowing across the lonely Panhandle prairie. “Arrowhead & Porcupine Claw” features the unmistakable Ray Bonneville on harmonica in a song about mystical boyhood objects of imagination.
Open the lyrics insert for “Sara’s All the Way” and you realize that this is a rodeo cowboy’s thoughts of his girl during the eight seconds of an unsuccessful ride. “New Lost Generation” are the frustrations of today’s generations as we compare ourselves to “the greatest generation”. “Worthy of the Sea” praises the leadership and the interdependence of a team of people as though on a sailing voyage.
“Broken Wire” is a series of staccato verses describing depression which is followed by “Broken Good” about taking adversity, embracing it and turning it into a song. “Standing Alone” is dedicated to a friend that lost his life in a car accident and the feeling of loss.
I see it significant that Chuck chose to close the album with the only cover song in the list, Richard Dobson’s “I Will Fight No More Forever”. These were the words of Chief Joseph’s surrender after having evaded the US Cavalry for hundreds of miles moving the entire tribe of Nez Perce around Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Montana in what was one of the most admirable military campaigns conducted by Native Americans. This song being sung by a retired combat veteran is extremely potent.
When you see Chuck perform, he is a jovial package of talent and compassion. The songs on Fire Out of Stone show a sensitivity to the human condition and seem to come from a soul that has faced the worst and still stands tall. There are those that don’t see sensitivity as a masculine trait. I can only suggest that those folks buy this record and take up that subject with Chuck.