Thu August 8, 2013
Seth Walker's "Time Can Change" A Winner, Start To Finish
I will be the first to admit that my beat is classical music, with something of a specialty in classical music with Latin American connections. But my musical taste is omnivorous. I listen to just about anything if it's creatively done, and this includes rock, pop, jazz (I listen to a lot of jazz!), Latin, country and, of course, classical. That confession out of the way, I still must admit that I have mostly ignored Ray Benson's “Texas Music Scene” television show. I run across it often while channel surfing on a Saturday evening. (KSAT-San Antonio carries the half hour program from 10:30-11 every Saturday evening.) It's not that I dislike Ray Benson. To the contrary, I have a great respect for him. But so often on the weekend, after a week of doing pretty intense music listening, my ears encourage me to surf on.
Thus, I am so happy that for whatever reason I actually stopped to listen to Ray's show this week. The format is upbeat as the artists take time to talk about their latest projects, where they're coming from, a hook anecdote here or there. Then they play. And it's good, and many of the artists are new to me. I think I'll probably be back next Saturday to see who's doing the pickin' and singin'.
I enjoyed what I heard from the girl band “The Trishas,” so I stuck around for more. The final guest was singer/songwriter Seth Walker. Amazon says of him: “It would seem to those previously unfamiliar with Seth Walker that he emerged practically overnight as one of the fastest rising stars in blues and roots music....,” so I guess I shouldn't feel too bad that I had never heard of him before, despite the fact he spent quite a few years honing his skills in the Austin music scene.
Seth played “Found Myself Lost,” from his 2012 release “Time Can Change.” In introducing the song, Seth spoke of looking for a Ray Charles groove, and surely that's present. But I also sensed in that first hearing more than a little Willie Nelson. Bottom line is that hearing Seth Walker, in a very intimate trio setting (just upright bass and drums, along with Seth's appealing voice and bluesy guitar), prompted me to look for the album. I purchased and downloaded it immediately. It has since remained front and center on my iTunes player.
It used to be said that “concept albums,” albums which are based on a narrative running from the first to last tracks, didn't sell. Willie Nelson proved otherwise with “Phases and Stages” and “Red Headed Stranger.” Maybe it's worth noting that these were products of the LP age. Back then, the consumer would put on a slab of vinyl and listen start to finish, usually beginning with the “A” side and then flipping to the “B.” Radio, of course, was usually isolating tracks, playing singles while trying to make hits. “Bloody Mary Morning” was spun from “Phases & Stages,” while “Red Headed Stranger” produced Willie's first number 1 single, "Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain.” In fact, the album “Red Headed Stranger” would also achieve number 1 status in 1975.
Seth Walker's “Time Can Change” once again shows that a concept album, skilfully written and artfully executed, can succeed. From the very first track, “Love is Through With Me,” the album suggests itself a logical successor to Willie's “Phases and Stages.”
“I'm through with love
and love is through with me.”
This is a man in pain, and what better musical genre to express lines like “I found myself lost, lookin' for you” than the blues? Man, I love this guy's guitar playing! And here again I find comparisons with Willie. Understand, Seth Walker is a much more accomplished guitarist than Willie, and I love the bluesy side of Willie's guitar playing. It was, in fact, Seth's guitar playing on that recent segment of “Texas Music Scene” which made me sit up and listen. The extended solo on “I Found Myself Lost” still impresses. Not only that, the chords are hip, suggested not only by the guitar but by the expert bass playing of Steve Mackey. Genres coalesce throughout the album. Jazz, Country and Blues all come together to produce a result that is never self-consciously eclectic (though one could certainly use that as a description – Willie again?).
Most, if not all, the songs on “Time Can Change” are capable of standing as singles. If there's one weak track on the album, and it may just be me, it's the reggae-ish “Wait a Minute.” However, heard within the context of the narrative of love lost, found, lost again, (“What am I going to do with all this love, now that you don't need it any more”), everything works just fine, all the way to the final track's positive lyric vibe, “I want to have more days like this, and more nights like that.” This explains why I turn shuffle off on my iPod when “Time Can Change” comes up in the playlist. Certain albums are just meant to be listened to that way, and this is one of them.
Seth Walker will play Sam's Burger Joint on September 27, and Gruene Hall on September 29.
For an extended interview with Seth Walker, well worth the read, go here.