When you hear Colter Wall sing, you realize a couple things. First, with a baritone voice that makes you wonder if he made a deal with the devil, you realize that he was born to sing. It is almost impossible to imagine him in any other profession (except maybe rancher). Second, on the new album Western Swing and Waltzes and other Punchy Songs (produced by Wall), you realize that he is pretty well-schooled in the history of western music.
The old-time feel of these songs is immediately apparent in “Western Swing and Waltzes.” In it, Wall sings about cowboys, rodeos, and Louis L’Amour. Meanwhile, the melody features fiddle, harmonica, and some twangy pedal steel guitar that would fit just as well into a song by Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys.
These songs aren’t just western in the way they sound. Each of these songs has a cinematic feel, almost as if Wall put a western-movie scene to music. He tells stories of cowboys and a man who carried his money in a diamond-studded jar. He also does a couple covers. One is a cover of the Marty Robbins classic “Big Iron.” The other cover is not as well known. “High and Mighty” (originally by Lewis Martin Pederson III). This is a song about a particularly tough bronco. About this horse, he sings, “If he can’t buck you off, you’ve learned to ride.”
A few of these songs will have you looking for a dance partner. “Talkin’ Prairie Boy” is an exception. This one feels similar to one of Bob Dylan’s talking songs and features just acoustic guitar and vocals. The stripped-down arrangement showcases Wall’s abilities as a storyteller. In it, he weaves a tale about going on the road and meeting a guy in Tennessee who “couldn’t tell a shoelace from a lariat.”
Maybe you’ve never worked on a ranch or ridden a bronco. Or like the character in “Talkin’ Prairie Boy,” you’ve never been west of Ohio. None of that really matters. Wall sings these songs in such a way that you can’t help but appreciate his storytelling, and his obvious grasp of western music. And of course you can’t help but appreciate his voice, which provides a richness to every song. Western Swing and Waltzes and other Punchy Songs (La Honda Records/Thirty Tigers) will be available everywhere on August 28. Order your copy here.
Colter Wall – guitar, vocals
Patrick Lyons – pedal steel, dobro, mandolin
Jake Groves – harmonica
Jason Simpson – bass
Aaron Goodrich – drums