The musical nom de plume of Konrad Wert (Paul was his granddad, James is his father's middle name), this is the first in six years and two vocal surgeries by the Florida-born singer-songwriter who also doubles as an award-winning Special Education teacher and advocate for justice in education. I have no idea what his other releases sound like, but this is firmly Americana, opening with the bluegrassy banjo and fiddle scuffed stomp of 'Come Back In My Mind', a call out to his grandparents, sister and lover, moving on to the train-rolling rhythm of the lyrically reflective going back home 'In the Dark of Morning', Heather Rae Johnson's fiddle driving things along, the tempo remains lively with the scampering shuffle back 'Your White Stained Dress', a love song from the narrator to his free spirit lover who rolls back in from the bar at 3am.
I confess to be much taken with the brief banjo strummed and choir backed playfully sung 'I'm So Good At Absolutely Nothing', but there's a lot to love throughout the album, running from the autobiographical 'I Come From SW Florida' featuring just vocals and acoustic guitar and the hoe-down scamper of 'Dance With Me Tonight' with Wert on both fiddle parts, one being pizzicato, to his Appalachian waltzing banjo showcase 'Don't Tell Me' and the five-minute gentle old time barroom waltzer 'Asleep With Both Eyes Open' featuring Micah Motenko on mandolin. There's also a rework of the smoking gun and a body on the floor ballad 'When It Breaks' from his 2010 album Feed The Family with the roles reversed.
The centrepiece, though, is 'Be At Rest' with its twin fiddles and vocal harmonies, a song about the struggles facing teachers, students and families in battles in classrooms across America and the rising number of violent incidents within school, the Guthrie-esque song calling to "Lift up your voice" and "lay down the sword and shield, be at rest".
He ends with the fingerpicked title track, just guitar and backing harmonies, an old fashioned spiritual-styled number looking for answers we move forwards together just as we're also called back home in search of peace and calm. You should take a stroll with him.
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