Features Editor Charlotte Kyle writes the CD reviews.
Butch Walker has an impressive resume when it comes to music.
His discography features six studio albums and four EPs, but this does not include his time spent as lead guitarist in SouthGang, co-lead singer in Floyd’s Funk Revival or lead vocalist in Marvelous 3.
Then there is his production track record, which includes work with Pink, Avril Lavigne, Simple Plan, Weezer, Dashboard Confessional and many others.
His cover of Taylor Swift’s “You Belong With Me” gained attention from the country starlet and he performed with her and Stevie Nicks at the 2010 Grammy Awards. (He was the tattooed guy playing the banjolin.)
As you can see, Walker knows what he is doing. His name may not be as recognizable as some of the artists he has worked with but in a perfect world he would be.
His latest album, “The Spade,” does not sound anything like those big name artists.
In fact, “The Spade” has a classic rock, alt-country vibe straight out of my dad’s album collection. It’s a mix of genres that come together perfectly in a world where mixing genres often sounds like a mess.
Walker knows how to write a catchy song no matter the genre, and that’s what “The Spade” is really about: delivering a message in a fun, peppy manner without reducing the listener’s number of brain cells.
I’m too young to appreciate the ‘80s but the first single, “Summer of ‘89” makes me long for those days.
Nostalgia has run rampant in popular culture these days, with every artist singing an anthem to the better days.
These artists usually just tell a story about their own high school days, but Walker manages to paint a portrait, plucking the listener up and dropping them into a party scene complete with drugs, alcohol and dirty rock shows.
The song doesn’t sound like a dirty rock show song, though. Instead it’s more along the lines of a pop song. It would be perfectly radio-friendly if you remove the swears and shorten it by a minute.
The second single, “Synthesizer,” features Walker’s tongue-in-cheek jabs at the current trends in popular music.
“Everybody’s writing songs with synthesizers / but I don’t have a synthesizer / I can still get down like Duran Duran in 1985.”
“Dublin Crow” sounds like an Irish folk song and while it sounds like nothing else on the album, its differences complement the other tracks. It truly shows Walker’s range as a songwriter and producer.
The emphasis on vocals leads nicely into “Closest Thing to You I’m Gonna Find.” The ballad is a stripped down, emotional ode to loneliness and lost love.
“So I’ll keep another night by this fire and drink some wine / it’s the closest thing to you I’m gonna find,” he sings sadly.
It could easily be a generic alt-country song, but Walker finds the perfect hook and delivers the lyrics with an honesty unlike many others.
It is one of the reasons I love Walker’s music: he may change genres and experiment with his sound but he never loses or masks the raw, honest quality you can’t fake.
The last track on the album, “Suckerpunch,” is nothing like the Zack Snyder movie: it’s actually good.
Something about the song makes me want to grab a beer and get in a fight, probably because the song is essentially a rowdy bar song.
The added dialogue before verses, in which Walker tries to remember the lyrics, only adds to the live stage feel of the song. I imagine this song is performed the same way live, only with crowd sing-alongs.
Overall the album captures the carefree attitude of youth culture from the eyes of a 41-year-old musician who has truly lived. It’s a clever, upbeat record sure to stay on repeat.
“The Spade” by Butch Walker and the Black Widows is available now on iTunes, Amazon and butchwalker.com through Dangerbird Records.