Colter Wall is the real deal. There’s no doubt about it, and it’s something to behold. Growing up, the first form of music I really latched on to with a ‘love’ was country music. Not what now passes as country music on today’s radio, rather the country music of the late 60’s and 70’s. My grandfather was a cowboy, and thus I wanted to be a cowboy. My grandfather also proved to be the most influential individual in my life, teaching me morals, values, work ethic, compassion and more. Somehow, he also instilled in me his love of ‘cowboy’ songs. Roy Rogers and The Sons of the Pioneers being the most constant. I still recall long horseback rides checking fence lines while listening to my grandfather’s rough and untrained baritone reciting “Cool Water”. My father loved Johnny Cash, who I also came to love, and also led me to the game changing Outlaw Country movement of the 70’s.
Colter Wall’s performance at the Tower Theatre this past Saturday night, brought all of these memories to mind for me within only a couple of songs. So yeah, Colter Wall is the real deal.
Taking the stage initially solo, Wall launched into “Bury Me Not on the Lone Prairie.” Nearly immediately, one is wondering, where in the hell does that voice come from? It’s a voice that seems so unlikely coming from such a young and seemingly unassuming man. It’s a voice that carries an edge and a hard earned wisdom. A voice uniquely suited for singing these songs, often based in the harshest of environments, surroundings and people. “John Beyers,” “Wild Bill Hickock” and Woody Guthrie’s “Oklahoma Hills” all followed in the extraordinary solo portion. Joined by his band, Wall began with the autobiographical masterpiece “Thirteen Silver Dollars”, which was one of my many highlights of the night. Pinpointing a highlight is a tough endeavor. With songs like this, it seems each one improves upon the previous, and these songs come at you at a blistering pace. With scarcely a breath between, Wall and band plowed through “Saskatchewan in 1881,” “Big Balls In Cowtown,” “Thinkin’ On A Woman,” “Motorcycle” and more. A rousing rendition of “Kate McCannon” preceded a somewhat reworked version of Townes Van Zandt’s “White Freightliner,” The stunning “Sleeping On The Blacktop” that closed the set proved to be yet another highlight in an incredibly memorable set. Returning to encore Ray Wylie’s “..Redneck Mother”, Wall somehow even managed to impress me more. Replacing the original “hippies” with “hipsters” is yet another feather in this young man’s cowboy hat. Colter Wall is part of the future movement of country music, and it was exciting to witness.
Wall seems to be constantly touring. Find all his dates and information via his webpage, here: http://www.colterwall.com/
The openers were a bit of a mixed bag for me. First up was the young man Joshua Ray Walker. A Texas native, Walker took the stage solo, armed simply with an acoustic guitar, some well crafted songs and the occasional yodel. It worked well. Really well. A rambunctious, heavy drinking crowd was surprisingly subdued and respectful during Walker’s set. Much like Wall’s set, Walker’s songwriting carries a maturity, wisdom and cleverness that belies his young age. A highlight for me was his song “last Call” with it’s truthful, introspective approach:
“I don’t want to be here when they say last call/I don’t want to see your face when the lights come on/I’m pretty sure you think my name is Paul”
This was Walker’s first time playing in OKC, but undoubtedly it won’t be his last. With a new album, “Wish You Were Here” scheduled to drop on January 25th on State Fair Records, Walker will certainly be making the touring circuit rounds. I’m really looking forward to hearing much more from this young fellow. Walker’s website holds all the details: http://www.joshuaraywalker.com/
Next up, we were treated to Josh Morningstar. Supporting his new album “The Plea”, Morningstar fell a bit too much into the “Red Dirt” clichés for me personally. Peer namedropping and the lyrical reliance towards alcohol and drugs, always prevalent in the sub genre definitely appealed too much of the audience though. Opening the set by stating, “I’m a songwriter that sings my own songs; If I don’t who will?” Only to play four cover songs seemed a tad confusing honestly. The man writes great songs. “Damn These Birds” and “Jerry Lee” proved this without question. I found Morningstar’s best moments came with songs from more of a personal and perhaps less crowd friendly approach. “The Plea” and “Wishing Well” are superbly written songs that were presented with incredible sincerity. While Morningstar’s set certainly appealed too many in the crowd, it really left me wanting to hear the ‘songwriter’ that resides in Morningstar more predominantly. I will definitely look forward to catching him again, perhaps in a more intimate setting. You can find more information on Morningstar here: https://www.joshmorningstar.com/