See You Next Time invokes the image of an all-night dive bar that offers safe haven for lovers, losers, drifters and dreamers whose hopes and aspirations always remain just out of reach.
Joshua Ray Walker sounds like the product of some imaginary liaison between Hank Williams and Patsy Cline, an affair neither would ever admit to.
While that clearly wasn’t the case, Walker offers every indication that, if in fact there was a gene pool that those two could have contributed to, he was left an open invitation to partake whenever he wants.
Granted, that’s a far-fetched scenario, but See You Next Time, the youthful singer’s third record in three years — and the final instalment of the trilogy that kicked off his recording career and garnered kudos in the process — honors those vintage influences by channeling the inspiration into a concept album of sorts.
It invokes the image of an all-night dive bar that offers safe haven for lovers, losers, drifters and dreamers whose hopes and aspirations always remain just out of reach. Those characters voice their emotions with sentiment and assurance, but ultimately fall short when it comes to commitment, connection or grasping hold of anyone or anything that can possibly pull them out of their mire.
Walker learned his lessons well; having kicked off his career at the tender age of 13, he was initially inspired by his grandfather, who instilled in him a love of hardcore country. Having dabbled in rock, punk and hardcore while still a precocious teen, he formally launched his career with his 2019 full-length debut, the wistfully-titled Wish You Were Here.
It quickly established Walker as an artist who nodded towards past precepts while keeping a firm focus on solid songwriting, clear and concise storytelling and melodies that were as indelible and incisive as the tales they were intended to convey.
Walker’s sophomore set, Glad You Made It, continued the trajectory that now culminates with this new album, although it still leaves the fate of those that play a part in this melancholy malaise unredeemed and unresolved.
The tattered mesh of remorse and resolve that’s found in opening track ‘Dallas’ suggests an autobiographical reference; after all, Walker is a native of that Lone Star State city.
The heartbreak inherent on ‘Flash Paper’ references his dad’s passing after a prolonged battle with cancer, and the legacy that was left in letters, notes and photos that had him wishing he had known more about his father while he was still alive.
So too, the tearful ‘Gas Station Roses’ deals with drug addiction under the aegis of an unsuspected scenario.
Still, it’s not all doom and gloom. The brassy pop flourish shared in ‘Sexy After Dark’ echoes the daydreams of many young men who fancy themselves as would-be casanovas.
The upbeat honky tonk of ‘Three Strikes’, ‘Dumpster Diving’ and ‘Welfare Chet’ remind us that even an encounter on the wrong side of the tracks can sometimes come with a fair share of celebration, even if it’s only for the short term.
While Walker tends to lean towards concepts that are tried and true, he does so with a conviction and authenticity that serves his muse well. See You Next Time extends an invitation the listener may also feel obliged to honor.
See You Next Time is out now via State Fair Records