Record Routine: Butch Walker evokes folk and country themes in new album
Afraid of Ghosts represents every good aspect of folk and country–vivid storytelling, heart-melting acoustic instrumentals–while leaving out the annoying twang and boisterous party themes found in today’s radio country. Walker transcends the expectations of a modern day small label country release, joining the company of folk and country modernists such as Bon Iver and Sturgill Simpson.
While quieter and leaning on less post-production than the aforementioned artists, Walker creates an album that evokes nostalgic thoughts in the listener’s head, painting images of love and loss underneath the eyelids of those who lend Walker their ear for 40 minutes.
Many of the tracks on Afraid of Ghosts mix the ethereal nature of today’s most prominent folk albums with the reverb of guitar and early 2000s rock influences, similar to the style of recent Kurt Vile or The War On Drugs releases. “The Dark,” the final song on the album, is a perfect example of this theme, with its meandering acoustic guitar riffs and floating ambience. The somber vocals, piano chords and stirring percussion of “Autumn Leaves” calls to mind cool fall days spent walking through fallen leaves among the trees of a lakeside forest.
One of Walker’s triumphs here is “Father’s Day,” with vocal similarities to a younger Willie Nelson and melodic comparisons to Bob Dylan. Featuring a guitar solo by Bob Mould and storytelling that evokes empathy for one’s own family, this penultimate track will make you fall in love with Afraid of Ghosts if you haven’t already.
Walker’s seventh solo studio album features a perfect combination of country, folk, rock and singer-songwriter, resulting, in contrast to my last review of Tim Myers’ The Year, in a perfectly desirable listen. Coming from a critic that typically only praises the purest of folk/country, an A for Afraid of Ghosts is a very positive omen.
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