Rhyme & Reason
Walter Salas-Humara is both a musician and visual artist. Hence, his songs are imagery rich and ply some different styles with it all being essentially rooted in rock n’ roll. After all, he is a co-founder of the Silos and has rock, pop, and punk deeply seeded in his approach. It’s a mixed bag but contains several compelling and appealing tunes.
Cuts like “Here We Go,” “She’s a Caveman” and “Out of the Band” are indicative of the Silos in their New York ‘80s post punk days. These kinds of tunes were the harbinger of alt-country before the term came into vogue. At that time, Walter Salas-Humara was part of the punk root-rock scene that included the True Believers with Jon Dee Graham and Alejandro Escovedo. Walter played with them as well as Chuck Prophet, another Silos guest. So, those echoes, as well as traces of Springsteen, run through this solo effort.
Originally a drummer, it was when Walter Salas-Humara took up the guitar that he began to write songs. But for him, it’s not all serious business. Take for example some lines from the final track, “Out of the Band” where he rhymes “chorus” with “dinosaurus” and “solo” with “Quasimodo.” The song finds its derivation in a theatrical project Walter co-wrote with novelist Jonathan Lethem. There is an incompetent player that they kick out of the band only to have the audience demanding he be reinstated because his was their favorite song. The band is forced to play the one song as the crowd doesn’t really care for anything else.
While the Silos may have begun, at least in Walter’s mind, as an art-rock band; roots-rock was the prevailing public perception, leading Walter eventually down a troubadour path. “Will You Be Ready” initially impresses as a political song (“…when the government falls, will you be ready?”) but in the end it’s a series of rhetorical questions. Several musicians grace the album but Jonathan Rundman’s guitar and harmonica are central to this and his organ to others. “El Camino De Oro” carries a more positive spin, having a community where all stick together. Walter’s Cuban heritage shows here and on the rhythmic “Hecho En Galicia.” Then, four tracks in, we get the rather bizarre repetitive stomper ‘She’s a Caveman,” written with then 15-year-old Wisconsite Tari Knight. “I Want to Be With You,” supported with two-part harmony in the infectious chorus, is a great pop tune.
The only cover is “Hard (Only Human),” an homage to its author, Pat McDonald (Timbuk 3), whose friends recreated his songs on a tribute album while he battled cancer. Its sarcasm oriented lyrics attracted Walter to the song. Like a few of these, it’s got catchy infectious hooks. Walter gets more serious and looks inward on his best vocal “Come in a Singer,” a tune co-written with K Phillips. The chorus says it all: “Come in a singer/ Leave us a song.” Creative types can relate to the ups and downs and desire to be remembered for a style or just one enduring work.
Walter Salas-Humara has stamped 24 albums musically, not to mention his artwork (the dog on the cover is his). His sense of adventure remains intact as captured in “Here We Go,” even though being approached by the record label shocked him a bit. He thought he was done with music but has renewed inspiration to keep going and have fun in the process.
- Jim Hynes
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