By Conway Jankowski
Young Mary’s Record Co./Thirty Tigers
With Songs of the Plains, Colter Wall has created a timeless tribute to cowboy singers and authentic country music, while simultaneously cementing himself as the leader of the pack moving the tradition forward. Though it’s easy to become lost in his stirring baritone, a voice that reverberates in a way that almost negotiates a physical response with the listener, it’s Wall’s uncanny ability to both masterfully craft his songs and interpret those of others, putting a signature stamp on them that make up the foundation of his second LP. Wall’s precise guitar picking supports these songs, along with his finger style similar to Mississippi John Hurt, while he’s deftly backed by the lonesome harp of Mickey Raphael — Willie Nelson’s long time harmonica player — Lloyd Green on pedal steel, and the rhythm section of Chris Powell and Jason Simpson.
Opening with a laid back waltz on “Plain to See Plainsman,” Wall inhabits the road weary sentiment of a fast-moving traveler, far from where he started but on his way home. We find him on more familiar territory in the revenge seeking ballad, “John Beyers (Camaro Song),” where Wall growls, ”This southside Swift Current boy is northside bound.” There is a strong sense of place throughout all of Wall’s songs, as the title of the album suggests, with nods to people and stories set in Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Alberta. He pays homage to Wilf Carter with a version of “Calgary Round-Up,” and tips his hat to underground legend Billy Don Burns with a haunting cover of “Wild Dogs.” The album ends with the traditional cowboy song, “Tying Knots in the Devil’s Tail,” featuring Saskatchewan country artist Blake Berglund and Alberta’s own Corb Lund.
Among all of the pieces combined to create Songs of the Plains, be it the taste of Grammy award-winning producer Dave Cobb, the musicality of the aforementioned band, or Wall’s stunning vocal and songwriting ability, it’s his reverence for both the pioneers and contemporaries of his craft that allow Wall to cut a distinct path for himself.Colter Wall, Record Review, Songs of the Plains, Young Mary's Record Co./Thirty Tigers