Are You Open?
Royal Potato Family
It’s been one heck of a moment or two lately. Normal has turned on its head. We are all in this together, and together we can make a difference. Are You Open?, the new album by Seth Walker releases February 15 on Royal Potato Family and asks exactly this. Are you open? Are you open to something new? Are you open to try? Are you open to change? Are you open to love? Are you open to this?
Are You Open?, is the tenth studio album for Seth Walker. Produced by Jano Rix of the Wood Brothers, this just might be Seth’s most creative undertaking yet. Seth found the grooves for these songs first. The lyrics came later. It is a different approach for Walker, and it succeeds in keeping the music fresh. Time spent in Havana, living on the road as a touring musician, and in living between Nashville and New Orleans influenced the melodies and rhythms on Are You Open?. Most of the songs build on a single chord, shifting in color and tone as they ebb and flow, and stack layer upon layer over hypnotic bass lines and percussive grooves. I recently caught up with Seth on tour where he played some of the songs from the album. As great as this album is, it sure was fun seeing them played live. The musicians and the audience certainly enjoyed being open to something new.
Recording the songs at home helped in keeping the music fresh and new. This was the first time Seth wasn’t at the mercy of a studio or an engineer. By being open to the inspiration as it flows, Walker could hit the record button to capture the moment. Seth Walker provides vocals and guitars. Producer Jano Rix provided drums, percussion, keyboards and vocals. Longtime band mate Myles Weeks contributed bass and background vocals. Steve Mackey, Lindsay Greene, and Chris Wood also provided bass, (Chris on upright bass). Matt Glassmeyer added horns, Jon Paul Ruggieri added guitars and pedal steel, Ben Teters contributed drums and vocals, Stefan Intelisano played keys and accordion, and Tommy Perkinson added background vocals. Backing this project are a group of people who answered the question, Are You Open?
“Giving It All Away” has an interesting mix of sounds played over a funky bass and electric guitar groove. It conveys a change is on the wind, the kind of change that comes when you’re open to it. The song blends into “Inside” with more of a percussive groove. The album takes a cosmic shift as Seth implores you to search from within. Next the music spirals to a rest for a moment then picks back up with Seth’s beatbox vocal introduction to the Caribbean tinged “All I Need To Know,” written with Ben Teters. Seth Walker speaks volumes with a tilt of his hat, a snap of his finger, or his “jazz chord” phrasing and it is most evident in this song. Another song with a Caribbean feel is “Hard Road”. Seth Walker grew his roots in rural North Carolina where music infused his soul from an early age, its part and parcel. As hard as red dirt and gravel tug at him, Seth knows that the hard road is his path for better or worse.
I’ve already worn the middle of this album thin by hitting replay. “No More Will I”, written with Gary Nicholson, takes a stand and reaches for the soul. A deep primal percussive beat professes that like Maya Angelou, Seth Walker knows why the caged bird sings.
No more will I, no more will I
No more will I turn a blind eye
I can’t walk away it’ll haunt me all of my days
No more will I turn a blind eye
The title song was written on a lazy afternoon in New Orleans. Open and vulnerable environments fester creativity. Seth wasn’t looking for a concept album, but most of the songs on Are You Open?, came from that one simple question. The song begins with straightforward acoustic guitar and vocal but then opens. An instant favorite is “No Bird” written with Oliver Wood. It is the most produced song on the album with a full wall of sound from the first drum beat to the last blow of the horns. Throughout is the unbelievably impeccable guitar Seth is known for. The bass is a loose funky groove that will stay with you for a while. This was one of the songs I saw performed live and wow was that fun to watch.
“Something To Hold,” written with Dave Pahanish, is about letting go. A meditative song about giving up the reach for the elusive brass ring and picking up the jewels found within your grasp.
I’m letting go, I’m letting go
Of all those things I called my own
Letting go, letting go
Maybe then I’d have something to hold
“Underdog” has a rag and bone second line feel to it. The groove is both familiar and new. The lyrics take on a reflective dreamlike persona as Seth swings you between the past and present lyrically. “Magnolia” is as sweet as its name implies. It’s an acoustic love song that builds from a simple guitar. Bass and harmonizing vocals blend with birdsong and accordion completes the sound. It’s quite beautiful and ends the album.
Are You Open?, comes from a place of vulnerability, it asks the big questions. The songs are reflective and soul cleansing. You’ll be left less heavy-hearted for having listened. That’s a good thing. Are You Open?
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