Seth Walker has never been an easy artist to classify. His music generally exists somewhere between blues and soul, but doesn’t fall firmly in either category. On the new album Are You Open?, he becomes even harder to classify other than to say that no matter the genre, he just writes good songs.
The album begins with “Giving It All Away,” and something about it is immediately familiar even if you can’t quite place it. When you tune in to the bass line, you notice some similarities to “Come Together” by The Beatles. The more intently you listen, the more you realize that there is a lot to take in with this song. It is soulful and features some clean guitar, a groovy rhythm and some keyboards that add a bit of a Tom Waits feel.
“All I Need” is quite a bit different than the songs that precede it. It starts with some percussive vocal sounds, which is followed by what sounds like slack-key guitar. Then you hear the bouncy rhythm and the bright keyboards, and you wish you were under a palm tree with a cold beverage in your hand.
The title track is a stripped-down melody featuring acoustic guitar, pedal steel (played by John Paul Ruggieri) and some percussion in the background. The melody and the vocals are both reminiscent of Elvis Costello. This is a good example of how a song can be made powerful by stripping it down to minimal instrumentation.
“No Bird” is another track that stands out for being different. The rhythm and the saxophone sound like something you would hear in a smoky jazz club. Then in the chorus, you hear some bursts from the horns that would fit easily into any soul song.
Dr. John is an artist who has always made albums as he wanted to without any regard for the genre in which it gets classified. Walker has taken a step in that direction with this album. While it features his usual soul and bluesy sounds, he branches out to the point that every song is a little different in style and sound. He incorporates some psychedelic aspects to this album (“Inside” is a good example) whether it’s the sound of the guitar or the way the vocals were mixed. With Jano Rix (drums, percussion, keyboards, and producer of the album) and Chris Wood (upright bass), you also hear some distinct Wood Brothers grooves on this album. Are You Open? was released on February 15 and is available everywhere now.