Texas musician Joshua Ray Walker has received a good deal of attention for his songwriting prowess. While he's largely portrayed other people in his songs — a cast of working-class characters who populate a fictional honky-tonk — his talent especially shines when he turns the pen on himself.
As he gets closer to the release of his new album See You Next Time, Walker has shared a personal, powerful song about his father, who died in November after battling cancer. 'Flash Paper' is premiering exclusively with Holler. Listen to it below.
The song begins quietly with an acoustic guitar, but the simmering electricity in the background builds through a hi-hat and electric guitar. Walker's enormous voice sounds plaintive. "When you say goodbye / Could you say it like it's the last time? / Or would that make you cry? / So you hold it on inside" he sings.
Mid-way through the song, Walker releases a howl that turns into a sharp 'yip' at the end. The moment is as powerful as any other he constructs through the song, capturing the magnanimity of his loss.
"My dad had a four-year battle with lung cancer and passed away in November", Walker says, "before he died, he gave me a cigar box full of notes and cards and lots of random little things, like a ribbon from a reading competition from when he was in elementary school".
Besides that ephemera, Walker's father also gifted him one last message. "He also put in a flash drive with a video he’d recorded, which he told me not to watch until Christmas".
It contained a message his father could share on video, recorded to a future that wouldn't include him in it. "My dad was from East Texas and kind of a good-old-boy type, and the video was really vulnerable for him", Walker explained. "Some of it was similar to things he’d said over the years, as he dealt with his illness and the two of us grew closer, but that song’s mostly about me wishing I’d heard more of those things while he was still here".
The song appears on Walker's forthcoming album — his third in three years — See You Next Time. Like the previous two albums, it's situated in a honky-tonk full of characters who populate its barstools and dance floor.
Releasing three albums was purposeful — Walker planned a trilogy out of 2019's Wish You Were Here and 2020's Glad You Made It. "The whole idea with the trilogy was to use the honky-tonk as a setting where all these different characters could interact with each other", Walker says.
See You Next Time is out Oct. 8 via State Fair Records.