A swift follow up to 2015's Afraid Of Ghosts, which dealt with his father's death, the Georgia native's eighth album is a more upbeat affair, one on which he sounds less like Springsteen and more like Bryan Adams, notably so on the double whammy openers of the title track strut, with its references to SE Hinton's The Outsiders, Georgia namechecks, and the spoken verses (recorded on his iPhone) and the telecaster sound 'East Coast Girls' delivering punchy melodies, big choruses and blazing guitars.
Again Ryan Adams is on guitars and behind the desk and while Johnny Depp's not around this time, rising country star Ashley Monroe drops by to add vocals on piano led co-write ballad 'Descending'. It's one of only three slow numbers on the album, the others lining up as the slide backed 'Can We Just Not Talk About Last Night', a Lou Reed-tinged number about the awkward morning after a friends with benefits night, and fingerpicked acoustic album closer 'Record Store', a love song that weaves in a nostalgic lament for a vanishing culture that shaped many a musician's life.
Getting back to the rockers, heralded by oohing backing vocals, 'Wilder In The Heart', about meeting a girlfriend at the airport, is another guitar-slinger track as, following a semi-spoken verse, he asks "Did you come back to tell me you're sorry, or are you scared of being alone", and segues via some crackling static and background noises into the ringing 'Ludlow Expectations' with its acknowledged Springsteen nod.
As the title might suggest, 'Irish Exit' has a Celtic swagger, its lyric about ducking out of parties where people only want to talk about themselves, before the geography shifts to the soul shuffling 'Mexican Coke', a decided shift in style (somewhere between Mink DeVille and Doug Sahm) with Gavin Fitzjohn on horns and a lyrics not about drugs but Latino girls.
Sandwiched between the final two ballads, is the mid-tempo "Spark: Lost", a big chorus and guitar solo number about love running its course and the severing of ties that comes with it, leaving only the memories behind.
Despite having been releasing albums since 2002, Walker's still not that well known as an artist and while he clearly makes a decent crust as a producer (he's worked on bestsellers by Pink, Avril Lavigne, Taylor Swift, Keith Urban and, most recently Carly Rae Jepsen), his wider recognition for his own music is long overdue. If there's justice, this should go a considerable way to rectifying that.
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