Joshua Ray Walker’s Wish You Were Here (State Fair Records) draws tight character studies, a world of steel mills, working girls, truckers, and lovelorn characters in 10 songs with language that rises well above the norm for a debut album. This man’s original writing and soulful, twangy voice are a more than welcome addition to Americana.
Walker’s lyrics plainly yet beautifully capture the American working class. Describing the family of his titular “Working Girl,” Walker sings, “Family full of failures right in a line / Working to the bone till closing time.” The character depicted in “Pale Hands” could be miner or factory worker, hidden from the sun: “I’ve been working on work / These pale hands ain’t seen light for days.” Walker’s lyrics burst with fresh ideas, clearly and cleanly expressed. His characterization of himself is such: “I’m a big, big man / Not just in size or in stature / In terms of space that can’t be filled / I’m a bottomless canyon without a drop to spill.”
With his twangy, southern accent, Walker soulfully belts his insightful lyrics. His voice is clear and true, with terrific diction, always easy to understand. There’s no struggle here to understand any of the words.
Walker’s acoustic drive guitar drives most of the melodies on the album. “Burn It” comes as a pleasant change of pace when it opens with his electric guitar riffs, perfectly matching the theme of the song. Walker has a canny ear for matching instrumentation to lyrics.
Joshua Ray Walker’s Wish You Were Here is an excellent album, especially so for a debut. That it flew a bit under the radar is a shame, as it’s such a strong piece of work. Get a hold of this excellent record as soon as you can. You’ll be glad you did.