Live at Mauch Chunk Opera House
Royal Potato Family
These words have previously appeared in my reviews of Seth Walker, but they bear repeating. Walker is a bluesman dressed up as an Americana artist. Since I first saw him perform at the Americana Music Conference over ten years ago, suffice it say that Walker is one soulful cat, perhaps the Robert Cray of Americana. Given the prolific content of blues on this site, blues fans need to take notice of this artist if you haven’t already.
Based in New Orleans after having resided in Austin, Nashville and New York, the commune-raised increasingly revered North Carolinian’s sound reflects even a deeper absorption of traditional American roots music. Now he comes forth with a live album that was even a surprise to him. As he describes it below and having had friends describe this show which was at a venue close to me, it is indeed an unexpected pleasure. “…This beautiful historic venue (Much Chunk Opera House) was built in 1881, and we felt the mojo in the walls as soon we stepped foot inside her. The band and I were deep into the “Gotta Get Back” US Tour, so many of these songs are from that album, but we also stretch back to many of my earlier recordings with fresh takes. What was so special about this night, is that the recording was done unbeknownst to us – a stealth recording if you will, by the good folks at the opera house. So, we just played. No expectation. No red light fever or steering of the muse here. It is an uninhibited performance…. The audience and us. Wrong notes and all. Just the way music should be.”
Specifically, from Walker’s latest album, Gotta Get Back he renders “Fire In The Belly,” “Call My Name,” and “High Time” and from his earlier material we have “2” Left To The Ceiling,” “Grab Ahold,” and “Tomorrow”. A special treat for Walker fans, a longtime staple in Seth’s sets, is his practically a Capella rendition of the classic song, “Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain.” Walker introduces it by professing his love for Willie Nelson’s music and as one of the first songs he remembers his mom playing on the turntable at home. It has never previously been released on one of his recordings.
Walker’s Gotta Get Back was produced by Jano Rix of The Wood brothers and you sense some of that band’s influence in the music as well as that of New Orleans, especially on “High Time,” written with Gary Nicholson, “Fire in the Belly,” and one from his previous effort, “2” Left to the Ceiling.”
The sizzling “Way Past Midnight,” also from that album, was inspired by the excitement Walker felt on his first trip to New York. Here he gives it a Louisiana zydeco feel with Stefano Intelisano’s accordion.
Walker has made several excellent studio records, with Gotta Get Back the best of them. As you might expect, these tunes sound even better with his bandmates soloing and pushing Walker.
- Jim Hynes