Joshua Ray Walker – See You Next Time
This album is part of a trilogy. The final track is the title track, which repeats the titles of both Wish You Were Here and Glad You Made It. I came across Joshua Ray Walker when I heard the second part and wrote in my review that ‘you know you’re in country music from the album’s first bar’. I heard yodelling, honky-tonk ready tunes and direct lyrics. It was among my 25 favourite albums of the year. I think this record is among my top 25 of this year.
I actually sighed contentedly when I heard the opening fiddle riff of Dallas Lights, which has the feel of an old Ryan Adams song or indeed the country-rock of Counting Crows. Ditto Fossil Fuel, where Joshua Ray’s voice threatens to be overpowered by the fiddle, drums and guitar flailing around him, and the autobiographical Dumpster Diving (great title).
Joshua Ray told Holler Country that he tries to write songs about people ‘forgotten in culture…the homeless or the foragers’. It makes sense that he’s thinking cinematically (‘in my mind the movie already exists’) which makes for great, emotional country music.
Cowboy contains some luscious pedal steel and diminished chords to match a mournful lyric and an excellent vocal. Flash Paper reminds me of Lukas Nelson, with a slight catch on the chorus which adds to the delightfulness of the tune. Three Strikes (‘once…twice….’) continues the swing feel while Sexy After Dark brings in a horn section and a Muscle Shoals brilliance.
Elsewhere, Welfare Chet is a character song about a man down on his luck (there’s an accordion solo) and the midtempo ballad Gas Station Roses compares a couple to flowers whose buds are ‘not meant to last’. This album shows musical maturity and deep knowledge of the Texan sound. I can’t wait to see where he goes next!
Creed Fisher – Whiskey and the Dog
The press release does the hard work for me: Creed Fisher is ‘unapologetic, patriotic and passionate’ so if that’s your thing, read on.
I spoke to Creed for my In The Red Dirt show on ARC Radio and learned of his hard work playing at bikers’ meets and in the bars of Texas, where Creed works as an indie-minded musician. He’s got another album of covers out next year but before then he puts out 14 tunes from his own hand, all of which contribute to Creed ‘fighting this battle for Real Country Music’.
High on the Bottle (‘addicted to the pain’) opens the album in a midtempo way as Creed laments the end of a relationship and how he plays sad songs in bars for people in his predicament. There are hints of Hank Jr in Girls With Big Titties, a horndog’s autobiography in song where Creed fulfils his brief of being an outlaw. Perhaps the baby he serenades on Down To The Riverbank has enormous breasts, although she would be equally attracted by the pulsating arrangement full of Hammond organ.
Similarly honky-tonkin’ are Hundred Dollars Short (‘the Devil went fishing and I took the bait’ is a fine line) and Honky Tonk Drankin (‘when my heart’s been sankin’), where jukeboxes and neon lights help ease the pain of a nasty ex-wife. The song seems to be the result of the narrative of the album’s title track, which refers to the only things a scorned ex should leave. For those who want some more heartache, I’m Crazy and You’re Gone provides it, with broken chords and an old-fashioned phone call from a friend in the middle of the song.
Interestingly, a lot of Californians are opting to move to Texas because the rent is (for the minute) more affordable. Thus does Creed warn incomers, on Don’t California My Texas, not to ruin paradise, with a swipe at their electric cars and confusion over gender-neutral lavatories. ‘We can sit and drink, don’t have to know what you think…just trying to warn you’ is his counsel.
This Town is a gentle tune full of pictures and memories of rural life sung simply with simple lyrics. Country bingo cards at the ready for sweet tea, apple pie, football games, trucks, deer, Johnny Cash and soldiers who didn’t make it home. Good Ol U S of A picks up this theme, a sway-along tune full of positivity and optimism which will be perfect for Thanksgiving and any occasion ‘when Old Glory waves and our anthems start’.
I love the thinkin’ song Find My Way Back Home, where a bluesy guitar part anchors a lyric about wandering being in one’s blood and how Creed’s ‘weak and weary soul’ is doomed to be ‘out here on this wind’. It sounds like the Texan plains and is one of the album’s highlights. Gray Skys (sic) is another song in triple time. It opens with fiddle to underscore the mood of heartbreak, growing older and plodding on through it. There are some fine backing vocals providing moral support.
The album closes with Hankles, a cute little song about Creed’s dog who ‘loves to chew on my ankles’. The pooch is also namechecked on Jesus, Haggard and Jones. Creed tells of how his uncles taught him to fight and to smoke and how his grandpa instructs him on the value of hard work. In fact, his grandpa appears across the album, as Creed recognises the folk he is descended from.
The instrumentation across the album – pedal steel, fiddle, snare rim shots – matches Creed’s spirited vocals, and there’s enough light and shade on the album to fully do justice to the singer’s writing skills. Those honky-tonks and biker meets which Creed told me took up most of his live shows will enjoy the tunes on the album. Maybe you will too.