Joshua Ray Walker

www.joshuaraywalker.com

Category: Solo Artist Genre: Americana, Country

About the artist

In just three years, Dallas, TX native Joshua Ray Walker has gone from virtual unknown to an artist Rolling Stone calls “country’s most fascinating young songwriter”. On his new album See You Next Time, Walker shares an imagined yet truthful portrait of a brokedown honky-tonk and the misfits who call it home: barflies and wannabe cowboys, bleary-eyed dreamers and hopelessly lost souls. His third full-length in three years, the album marks the final installment in a trilogy that originated with Walker’s 2019 debut Wish You Were Here and continued with last year’s breakout Glad You Made It, which No Depression declared “an album that outshines expectations for what country music can, and should, sound like.”

“The whole idea with the trilogy was to use the honky-tonk as a setting where all these different characters could interact with each other,” says Walker, who drew immense inspiration from the local dive bars he first started sneaking into and gigging at as a teenager growing up in East Dallas. “In my mind, this album’s taking place on the night before the bar closes forever—the songs are just me taking snapshots of that world, and all the moments that happen in it.”

Like its predecessors, See You Next Time came to life at Audio Dallas Recording Studio with producer John Pedigo and a first-rate lineup of musicians, including the likes of pedal-steel player Adam “Ditch” Kurtz and rhythm guitarist Nathan Mongol Wells of Ottoman Turks (the country-punk outfit for which Walker sidelines as lead guitarist). The album’s immaculately crafted but timelessly vital sound provides a prime backdrop for Walker’s storytelling, an element that endlessly blurs the lines between fable-like fiction and personal revelation. “I learned a long time ago that writing from a character’s perspective lets me examine things about myself without ever feeling too self-conscious about it,” he points out. Closely informed by the tremendous loss he’s suffered in recent years, See You Next Time emerges as the most powerful work to date from an extraordinarily gifted songwriter, imbued with equal parts weary pragmatism and the kind of unabashedly romantic spirit that defies all cynicism.

In its nuanced exploration of so many disparate moods—grief and celebration, sorrow and surrender—See You Next Time takes an entirely unexpected turn on its lead single “Sexy After Dark.” Fueled by a fiery horn section, the wildly catchy track hits a brilliant balance of bravado, soul-stirring confession, and brutally self-aware humor. “There’s a deep history of sexy-crooner country songs played by dudes who were pretty unsexy by all accounts but still had so much swagger,” says Walker. “‘Sexy After Dark’ was my attempt at writing a song like that, a fun song I’d want to crank up and party to. It all came back to wanting to really push the boundaries of what I could do on this album.”

In a stunning tonal shift, See You Next Time then delivers its most devastating moment, the intensely intimate “Flash Paper.” “My dad had a four-year battle with lung cancer and passed away in November, and before he died, he gave me a cigar box full of notes and cards and lots of random little things, like a ribbon from a reading competition from when he was in elementary school,” says Walker. “He also put in a flash drive with a video he’d recorded, which he told me not to watch until Christmas. My dad was from East Texas and kind of a good-old-boy type, and the video was really vulnerable for him. Some of it was similar to things he’d said over the years, as he dealt with his illness and the two of us grew closer, but that song’s mostly about me wishing I’d heard more of those things while he was still here.”

Joshua Ray Walker knew how to keep you guessing during his set at Rustic Tap on Saturday, rolling along to the rhythm of an 18-wheeler one minute and shifting into neutral for a loping bedroom ballad the next. The constant throughout for this country-tinged songwriter was his inexorable sense of storytelling, singing parables of self-reflection — and, oftentimes, evisceration — that were tortured by what his narrators could write in a song but couldn’t say in person. Punctuating his haunting arrangements with even eerier high-pitched yelps, Walker finished things off, alone and seated in a chair, with the bold imagery of “Canyon.” J.G.

RollingStone.com

Rolling Stone