Colter Wall

REVIEW: Colter Wall “Little Songs”


Colter Wall has carved himself a weird little niche in country music. The Saskatchewan singer-songwriter’s lonesome prairie songs, laconic nature and traditional arrangements have cowboys, both real and wanna-be, flocking to his frill-free sets. His latest album, Little Songs, recorded with his longtime touring band, celebrates (in his typically low-key way) the music – and the rare moments of lightness – that get those plainsmen through the hot, dusty days and lonely nights.

According to tradition, cowboys like to cut a rug, and Little Songs starts off with a dance with the prettiest girl in the room. “Prairie Evening/Sage Brush Waltz” begins as an acoustic ballad before switching over to 3/4 time as Wall gathers his courage – “I set aside my fool notions of pride/And it wasn’t a moment too soon”- to make a memory or two. Doug Moreland’s fiddle solo will have you imagining that little bit of magic found on a small town Saturday night. The dancehall also makes an appearance in the casually swingin’ “Honky Tonk Nighthawk,” although this night out seems more about staving off loneliness among like-minded folks than finding post-last call company – “I don’t care what’s cool or where it’s at/I’m congregating at the places/Where the folks dress in boots and hats.” 

Most of Little Songs, though, focuses on isolation of the prairie, not the relative comforts of the juke joint. Particularly notable is “Corralling the Blues.” Harmonica (from Jake Groves) and Dobro (from co-producer Patrick Lyons) help bring home the loneliness found in small farm towns, while Wall wryly notes that social interaction is limited  – “I might get to thinking/That I might could quit drinking/But then what else is there to do” – before tackling the depression that isolation and limited opportunity can bring – “But when the day’s at a close/And I’m all alone/You can guess where my mind wanders to.” Wall finds a kindred spirit in “The Coyote & The Cowboy” (penned by Ian Tyson, one of two covers on the record) – “The coyote is a survivor/Reckon he’s got to be/He lives in the snow at forty below/Or in Malibu by the sea.” Hoyt Axton and Kenneth Higginbotham’s “Evangelina” also makes an appearance, with classical guitar and pedal steel supplementing a tale of cross-border longing.

The album’s title track tries to combat the loneliness with some mandolin, electric guitar and the way that many of us cope – music: “You might not see a soul for days/On them high and lonesome plains/You’ve got to fill the big empty/With little songs.” And the album wraps with what Wall is best at: clever couplets – “Crossed the wide Pecos/The sun it did bake us” and a campfire song (“The Last Loving Words”) that trails off with acoustic guitar and harmonica that doubles as a prairie goodnight. You can listen in your home, your truck or at a festival surrounded by thousands, but it won’t matter – you’ll still feel the lonesome. 

Song I Can’t Wait to Hear Live: “Cow Calf Blue Yodel” – Dobro, steel, harmonica and even a bit of gen-u-ine yodelin’ – it’s the best cowboy music you’ll hear in our homogenized world. 

Little Songs was produced by Colter Wall and Patrick Lyons, mixed by Mike Stankiewicz and mastered by Mike Monseur. All original songs written by Wall. Musicians on the album include Wall (vocals, acoustic guitar), Lyons (pedal steel, mandolin, electric bass, archtop guitar, Dobro, flatpick acoustic guitar, fretted Dobro, baritone guitar, electric guitar, electric mandolin, classical guitar, tic tac bass), Jason Simpson (bass), Jake Groves (harmonica), Russell Patterson (drums) and Doug Moreland (fiddle). 

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Enjoy our previous coverage here: Show Review: VNE & Colter Wall at Woolys Was Amazing Piece of Storytelling

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