Joshua Ray Walker – Glad You Made It
Walker’s sophomore album is one of the most enthralling releases of 2020. The Texan kicks off this 10 song epic with “Voices”. Riding over a pedal steel, Walker delivers a song about being broken and contemplating ending it all – “I might put this truck in neutral / Let it roll into the lake / First I’ll finish off this bottle / So it looks like a mistake.” With a heartfelt vocal drenched in Dwight Yoakam inflexions, he appears to be past the worst and attributes his rescue to a caring love but the dark shadows remain. “True Love” lights the after burners and Trey Pendergrass’s drumming heralds a change of pace. It’s on this track you’re now convinced that he has a voice that’s the platform for a long career.
There are a variety of sounds and paces on this album. (Kudos to John Pedigo’s production). Nothing is more striking than “Cupboard”. Imagine a rockabilly cover of “Sultans Of Swing”. Some beguiling fast picking guitar from Wade Cofer is an album highlight whilst some B3 organ whistles behind. Along the way we get time signature changes. “Bronco Billy’s” gets more string magic as Walker, on acoustic, and Adam Kurtz, on pedal steel, duel at pace. The song mines traditional country with lightning fret board runs.
Lyrically there are some curved balls in here. “Boat Show Girl” recounts the ennui of women paid to drape themselves across boats for sale at a show. He certainly can write a lyric – “You stand there on your altar / Astroturf beneath your feet / Like a redneck Statue of Liberty / This phrase rings out as you greet / ‘Give me your tired your poor / Your huddled masses waiting on the shore / May you board this fiberglass vessel / And not feel empty anymore’”. “User” is a musing on a relapse into using drugs, with an addictive hook. A brass chorus leads the band as Walker’s jovial delivery precedes his probable demise.
“Play You A Song” adds harmonies to the arrangements along with a traditional selection of instruments such as banjo and fiddle. If there’s a debate as to whether he’s paid his dues at several Texas hoedowns then this is his calling card. On “Loving County” Pedigo twiddles the dial on the electric guitar sound to give it a distant and fuzzy reverb whilst a slow vocal is pure Dwight Yoakam; no complaint on my behalf.
Walker takes a variety of sounds and it’s his comfortable mastery of so many styles and layered arrangements with fabulous compositions that elevate this into a contender for ‘album of year’ category for many Country fans, including this one.