Sunday, June 8, 2014

Seth Walker: “Sky Still Blue” (2014) CD Review

I got turned on to Seth Walker a couple of years ago when he released Time Can Change. That album had one of my favorite songs of that year, “In The Meantime.” Seth Walker’s new CD, Sky Still Blue, is full of sweet, bluesy grooves with some touches of soul, jazz, gospel and even early rock and roll (on "For A Moment There"). And this album has one of my favorite songs so far of this year: “Grab Ahold.” The material here is mostly originals (the only cover being a good bluesy rendition of Van McCoy’s “Either Way I Lose”). A lot of these songs were co-written with Oliver Wood, who also produced the album. Seth Walker has some excellent musicians and vocalists backing him, including Chris Wood (of Medeski Martin & Wood), Jano Rix, Brigitte DeMeyer and The McCrary Sisters. And Ephraim Owen’s trumpet playing during an instrumental section of “All That I’m Askin’” is one of my favorite moments of this disc.

The album opens with the briefest of introductions: “Here we go.” And the guitar groove that starts “Easy Come, Easy Go,” the lead track, immediately hooks me. This song has a very good groove, and kind of a positive vibe, which works well with lines about missing someone. It’s an attitude we all want to be able to adopt. “I just wonder why you had to go/Easy come, easy go/Why do I have to miss you so/I was just fine going solo.” And I love this line: “But I can’t escape, ‘cause you’re my best mistake.” “Easy Come, Easy Go” was co-written by Seth Walker and Oliver Wood.

“Trouble (Don’t Want No)” begins with a great blues vibe that is both smooth and mean. It slowly builds rather than suddenly kicking in, and it’s great.  Well, I guess I was mistaken/About the love that we were making/Did I say too much too soon.” This is a very cool tune that feels somewhat tightly wound, like it could explode or strike harder at any moment. Plus it features some wonderful guitar work during the instrumental section. “Trouble (Don’t Want No)” was co-written by Seth Walker and Gary Nicholson.

“Grab Ahold” is a completely delicious, mellow tune with a gospel flavor in the backing vocals. This is my personal favorite from the CD, and one of the best songs I’ve heard this year. It’s a sort of love song with elements of jazz and soul, in which he offers what strength he has to someone. “When all you can do is sing that one sad song/And soak in your own tears/Just grab ahold of me.”  And they’ll each pull the other through – or at least keep each other company through whatever misery life tosses their way, as he sings “Just grab a hold of me/And we’ll both go down together.”  That, to me, seems like the most honest of love songs. I completely love this song. It was co-written by Seth Walker and Oliver Wood.

Seth Walker follows that with “Another Day,” which has a very catchy rhythm. It’s a tune about how love changes how we perceive everything. For some reason at a certain point in this song, I imagine elephants dancing, swinging their great trunks in time to the groove. I’d actually like to see that. So if someone could arrange it, I’d sure appreciate it.

"High Wire" is another of my favorites. It's a beautiful, slow, late-night jazzy gem, with a really nice vocal performance plus some great touches on keys. This song also provides the album’s title in the line, “And if it pours down on you and the sky is still blue.” And I really like this line: “Well, all I need's a little hope to get me down off this rope.” And I absolutely love the jazzy lead guitar during a brief instrumental section. "High Wire" was written by Seth Walker and Oliver Wood.

"For A Moment There" has a wonderful early rock and roll, rhythm and blues vibe, with delightful backing vocals. This is such a fun, sweet song. I love the way the brief guitar solo emerges, though I wish it would go on a bit longer. And I dig the piano. "For A Moment There" was written by Seth Walker and Jessi Alexander.

Sky Still Blue concludes with a sweet, mellow, beautiful song titled "Way Too Far." Here is a taste of the lyrics: "'Cause we've come way too far/To walk away/To be pulled apart/We can't give it up/Thinking that we've had enough/We've come way too far."

CD Track List

  1. Easy Come, Easy Go
  2. Trouble (Don’t Want No)
  3. Grab Ahold
  4. Another Day
  5. Tomorrow
  6. All That I’m Askin’
  7. High Wire
  8. For A Moment There
  9. Either Way I Lose
  10. Jesus (Make My Bed)
  11. Way Too Far 


Musicians on this album include Seth Walker on vocals and guitar; Steve Mackey on bass; Derrek Phillips on drums and percussion; Jano Rix on piano, Wurlitzer, organ, percussion, drums and backing vocals; Chris Wood on upright bass; Oliver Wood on guitar and backing vocals; Ephraim Owens on trumpet; The McCrary Sisters on backing vocals; and Brigitte DeMeyer on backing vocals.
Sky Still Blue is scheduled to be released June 10, 2014 through The Royal Potato Family. 

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