About 10 years ago, I was making the first 2 Bears album with my brother-in-rhythm Joe Goddard. On there is a song, the first I ever wrote, called Time In Mind. A country song with a sample from a Papa San record of a man crying. I played a demo of this song to my friend George and he said, “you sound like Kent’s answer to Bobby Charles”

“Who is Bobby Charles?” I asked…

Raf Rundell and his copy of the forgotten album

George told me that he was one of Ian Durys favourite singers. (He would have an idea, George is an old friend of Baxter Dury and spent a lot of time with him and his old man) Ian Dury is a hero. I was curious. I can only dream of being Kent’s answer to Bobby Charles but the conversation led me to this album … and Bobby Charles’ story is brilliant. He was from Abbeville, Louisiana, deep in Cajun country and as a teenager had written bona-fide rock n roll standards like See You Later Alligator and I Don’t Know Why I Love You (But I Do) was signed to Chess Records  and Fats Domino’s Imperial but had no real hits with his own recordings. The story gets a bit misty but a good version seems to go that he got busted with grass in Nashville. Rather than risk jail he put a pin in a map and skipped town. The pin landed on Woodstock. Apparently he had no idea about the festival or scene up there, just liked the sound of the name.

At that time The Band were there and Bob Dylan‘s manager Albert Grossman was starting his Bearsville label. Bobby Charles signed to Bearsville and made this album in Woodstock. Rick Danko from The Band is credited as producer and he and Levon Helm and Dr John all play on the record. It came out in 1972 but didn’t sell anything much. He fell out of the Woodstock scene and went back to Louisiana  where he kept a low profile. His catalogue of songs meant that he was OK for money but bad luck seemed to follow him. His house burned down and then his next one was blown away in a hurricane. He died in 2010.

There’s a tough-softness to this album I love. It is romantic, loose, swampy, mellow and funky. The words are sweet and honest, playful and humane. It sounds like a group of people having a warm and easy time making a record. Hard to pick a favourite but two standouts are I Must Be In A Good Place Now and Small Town Talk. I found my copy quite cheap on Discogs but it’s got quite pricey in the last few years. Luckily the nice people at Light In The Attic Records reissued it not long ago.

Raf Rundell‘s wonderful record O.M. Days is out now via Heavenly Recordings and you should definitely give it a spin – well and turn to Bobby Charles right after that.