Monday, August 31, 2020

Review of Charlie Robertson’s “Suspicious Ministry” CD Album

The Song

Written by Robert A. Waters

Music at its core is this: somebody writes a song. It can be for personal reasons, for regret or joy, love or hate. Or it can be solely for filthy lucre. Whatever the reason, music that touches a listener’s heart will last.

For instance, John Newton’s song, “Amazing Grace,” was written with almost debilitating shame for his past sins. For years, Newton had been captain of a slave ship. He bought and sold humans like they were loaves of bread. Then he converted to Christianity. Newton repented and was amazed that God could save a “wretch” like him. In only a few short verses, the former seller of souls revealed to millions of sinners that there’s hope of redemption.

Some songs sell millions. Others, regardless of merit, make little impact on the commercial market. That doesn’t make them any less compelling.

My friend Charlie Robertson is one of the finest song-writers in America. He’s well-known in his hometown of St. Augustine, Florida, and loved by music aficionados elsewhere, but unknown on the hit parade. You see, Charlie did it “his way.” He wrote the kind of music he wanted to write, not pop songs, not commercial songs. With a degree from the University of Florida in journalism, he worked most of his life in a factory making car parts for Nissan. He played various venues, such as bars or music festivals and recorded four CDs, each containing 12 original songs. He developed enough of a following that he has avid fans scattered across the country.

Charlie has opened shows and shared billings with Townes Van Zandt, Jimmy Buffett, Michael Smith, Steve Martin, Tom Paxton, Odetta, Taj Mahal, Steve Goodman, Guy Clark, Waylon Jennings, Doc and Merle Watson, The Newgrass Revival, and Roy Bookbinder. He was part of the Gamble Rogers Florida Folk Revue, which included Will McLean, Paul Champion, Jim Ballew, Teri DiSario, Elizabeth Corrigan and Bob Patterson.

Several songs on his most recent CD album, “Suspicious Ministry,” are autobiographical. In “Guard Duty 1969,” Charlie writes about his experiences in the army after being drafted. Most of his two years were spent as a clerk at Fort Riley, Kansas. Vietnam and Florida were far away from the Midwest icebox where he performed nightly guard duty. Like many veterans, he questions whether his service to his country really made a difference. In “White Nurse,” he writes about his childhood when his mother worked as head night nurse at Mary Lawson’s Hospital in Palatka, Florida. Most of the patients were black and looked on the kindly white nurse who ministered to them as an “angel.” The detailed descriptions of 1950s Florida struck true to a native like me.

The song I like best from Charlie’s new CD is called “That Old Fool.” Nashville is where country singers go to sink or swim. For everyone who finds a safe and prosperous harbor, there are thousands, perhaps millions, who capsize. The protagonist in this song plays at a dive bar for tips. He’s been in prison, his wife left him for a “greasy loan shark,” and he knows that the hearts of country music execs are “bar codes.”

If you long for something other than the putrid pop country or pop rock that’s fashionable today, check out Charlie Robertson.

That Old Fool

Written by Charlie Robertson

He was leaning up against a brick wall

Drinking beer straight from the keg.

He played an old Gibson J-50,

He had an orange prosthetic leg.

Two feet above his head

There was a “come to Jesus” scene,

It was the Raiders against the Chargers

On a 52-inch screen.


He played songs that he still remembers

For beer and tips, not Cadillacs,

Like “I Left My Baby Crying

In the Smoke Along the Tracks.”

“Silver Wings,” “Sing Me Back Home,”

“Ring of Fire,” “Faded Love.”

Oh, I know, ‘cause I was watching

From “The Window Up Above.”

All these young studs down on Broadway,

He could take them all to school,

But they’re too busy posing as outlaws,

They ain’t listenin’, listenin’ to that old fool.



Man, one of them teams scored a touchdown

And the whole place went insane.

He looked down and checked his tip jar,

Well, the total was about the same.

He did time in Moundsville Prison

In West Virginia, for running shine,

Kiting checks and forging passports

And other bold, creative crimes.


Lost his leg on an icy backroad,

Prayed for guidance from above.

Lost his woman to a greasy loan shark,

A dog-eared page in the book of love.

If they’d just shut up and listen

They’d find an undiscovered jewel.

But in this place where hearts have bar codes,

They ain’t listenin’, listenin’ to that old fool.


He was leaning up against a brick wall

Drinking beer straight from the keg.

He played an old Gibson J-50,

He had an orange prosthetic leg…

Charlie recently held a coronavirus concert. "That Old Fool" is the last song in the set.

You can order this CD from Charlie Robertson.


1 comment:

Unknown said...

"Very Good".!!!!!!!