Concept albums are a thing of the past in country music. Like high-minded arrogance Johnny Cash Singh The Ballads of the True West And Willie Nelson Red-headed Stranger It was very common in the 1960s and 70s. Today, an album like Stargill Simpson The Ballad of Dude and Juanita Exceptions, not rules. Yet that’s exactly how Texas singer-songwriter Joshua Ray Walker came out of the gate. His third long player, See you later, Started a trio with Abhishek in his 201 debut that you come here which marks him as one of the most exciting storytellers in the country.
“I didn’t want to get that stigma from the concept album in my first release,” Zoom admits backstage from the Texas State Fair. The idea, revolving around the last night of a fictional hockey tank business, was part of his initial pitch when he signed his label, State Fair Records, in early 2018. They have so far agreed not to disclose the idea. “We thought it would be counter-productive, or put the albums in a certain context. We wanted everyone to be weighed in on their own merits, ”he said.
Walker, in many ways, is a man out of time – and, most of his life, away from space. With his 6XL frame, glasses, and tall, bleached mallet, he doesn’t fit into Nashville’s soft, bearded leading men’s part. During her youth in the poor Casa Linda neighborhood of Dallas, she often dropped out of school because of rape, and never graduated. He started playing the gig as a teenager, yet he didn’t release an album until he was 30 years old.
“It took me a long time to build my confidence in playing and singing the songs that I performed and the way I sang them. I didn’t think of myself as a singer five years ago, “he admits. Playing at the angry beer joint was not the place to be. “I came to be wallpapers and to entertain people and sell beer.”
Through years of constant sighing, Walker spent many deep nights chatting with local iceflies in dives and dance halls in his own state, soaking up their stories and absorbing their songs. The story of the boat shows the queens sprayed with spray tan, thinking about how wounded or suicidal drunks can make their deaths abrupt, and his writing is darker and thicker than coming out of the mainstream music city. It went unnoticed: his sophomore release, Glad You Made It, peaked at number 5. Rolling stoneList of the best country albums of 2020.
It hasn’t been translated into album sales or radio play, at least towards the country. Walker’s has been adopted by Americana instead, with its pre-sale See you later Cracked the top 40 on that chart before it was published and a packed schedule of Nashville’s affiliated Americana Fest last month. A song from the new album, “Cowboy”, was actually commissioned by another artist – but was not accepted. “I haven’t got any cuts yet, but I have dipped my toes in the water [of doing cowrites] And I’m making a great name for myself there, ”he says.
For the most part, it’s hard to imagine anyone walking by Walker singing his songs. A voice that scares Falsetto from the deep, barreling drills, he often breaks down into yaps, elopes, and yodels that cut the emotional core of a song in such a way that even sharp words can never do. But See you later This is a rolling, old-school dance record. The opener features fiddle and steel paddle-colored songs known as “Dallas Lights” and the lead single “Sexy After Dark” features an unexpected Memphis-style horn, a track that makes self-loathing fun and bitter.
The last 18 months have been full of frustration and despair for Walker. Already deprived of his income by the Covid-1 pandemic epidemic, and unable to capitalize on that buzz after his first two records, he lived in an extended stay hotel for about 12 months after a pipe burst in his home and destroyed his property. He has recently returned to the country, but cannot return soon after returning to the streets. Maybe now he can pick up where he left off in March 2020.
“Everything that could be wrong went wrong last year. But at the time, it almost became ridiculous, “Walker said, not like one of the hard luck characters in his song.” It was, well, I have to get back to work. It’s going to be over in the end.
In addition to finishing the narrative arc of his three-album cycle, See you later Another chapter ends with a tribute to Johnny Ray Walker, the father of his long-distance trucker, who died of cancer last November. “Canyons,” from his first album, was written after the initial diagnosis; “Flash Paper” is a follow-up, inspired by a heartwarming video message that his father recorded before his death. “I was grateful that he said these beautiful things, but at the same time it was, man, that’s what I wanted to hear while you were here. Why couldn’t you do it? ”He said.