Joshua Ray Walker

REVIEW: Joshua Ray Walker “What Is It Even?”


Joshua Ray Walker – What Is It Even?

Sometimes, you just gotta have fun with it. That’s the point behind Joshua Ray Walker’s new album of covers. On What Is It Even?, the Dallas singer-songwriter, fresh off releasing three critically lauded country records, decided to take a break of sorts and honor his favorite all female, mostly non-country songwriters and artists by adding his own sense of twang and plenty of outsized joy to surprisingly successful effect.

True to his mission on What Is it Even?, Walker starts off appropriately big ‘n’ brassy with a faithful (and soulful) cover of Lizzo’s “Cuz I Love You” (twanged out a bit via Adam “Ditch” Kurtz’s pedal steel). The real fun and intrigue on the record, though, comes in the form of covers like The Cranberries’ “Linger.” Walker’s easygoing delivery, more steel, and a recorder solo from Tenacious D’s Kyle Gass (a seemingly bizarre note that typifies the bouncy pleasures on the record) absolutely countrifies the Irish band’s alt-weeper and, at least for four minutes, makes this song Walker’s own.

The original inspiration for What Is It Even? is the organ and horn-filled “I Wanna Dance with Somebody,” and fans of both country music and the late Whitney Houston can find common ground in Walker’s Sunday-morning rave-up take on the 80s pop standard. It’s another danceable classic, though, that shows the magic in Walker’s approach. Cher’s “Believe” never struck me as a particularly strong song, but Walker’s dancehall-worthy take gave me a new appreciation for the tune. Likewise, his version of Beyonce’s “Halo” turns a big, dramatic ballad into a quick-time, fiddle and Dobro-soaked, sweaty Saturday night ass-mover.

If it’s romantic drama you want, though, stick around ‘til the end of What Is It Even?. Walker takes on Regina Spektor’s simple, delicate “Samson.” Like her original, it’s primarily piano and a healthy dose of falsetto, but the focus remains on an unsteady romance characterized by Spektor’s all-time great line – “You are my sweetest downfall” – and a love line that takes on greater significance as we continue to declare with kinds of love are “right” and “wrong” – “And the Bible didn’t mention us/Not even once” (point being, no one gets to decide that right and wrong for someone else). Joshua Ray Walker set out with the intent of having fun on What Is It Even?, but that doesn’t mean he won’t try to break your heart just a little bit before it’s all over.

Song I Can’t Wait to Hear Live: “Goodbye Horses” – Walker tucks a little bit of fun into his twangy take on the Q Lazzarus tune best known for its appearance in Silence of the Lambs. Turns out, it’s a damn good song.

What Is It Even? was produced, engineered and mixed by John Pedigo and mastered by James Driscoll. Musicians on the album include Joshua Ray Walker (vocals, acoustic guitar, electric guitar), Billy Bones (bass guitar), Adam “Ditch” Kurtz (pedal steel), Trey Pendergrass (drums), Kyle Gass (recorder), Andrew Garfis (saxophone), Gaika James (trombone), Tyler Martin (electric guitar), John Pedigo (backing vocals, electric guitar, percussion, banjo), Heather Stalling (fiddle), Chad Stockslager (piano, organ) and Alcedrick Todd (trumpet).

Go here to purchase What Is It Even?:

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Enjoy our previous coverage here: Show Review: Joshua Ray Walker and Sarah Shook in OKC

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