Album Review: Butch Walker – Stay Gold

By on Friday, 26th August 2016 at 12:00 pm
 

Header photo by Noah Abrams

Butch Walker Stay Gold coverSummer road trip music seems to be in high demand recently, and 2016 has been a good year so far for producing it. For example, I recently reviewed the excellent new album from Bear’s Den, which is a perfect soundtrack for restless late night drives in the hallucinogenic glare of headlights on long, empty stretches of highway. But if a daytime drive in the carefree sunshine of late summer is more your speed, you’ll won’t do better than American producer and songwriter Butch Walker‘s new album ‘Stay Gold’.

The album’s upbeat title track is a perfect lead-in, with bright alt-country instrumentation and a rousing chorus that references S.E. Hinton’s classic novel ‘The Outsiders’. I’m not sure if this is “required reading” in the UK, but most Americans of a certain age will be warmly familiar with either the book or the movie adaptation from the 1980s. Like the story it refers to, the song ‘Stay Gold’ is immediately engaging from the first guitar riff, and Walker’s blue-collar, working-class lyrics are relatable without devolving into the gimmickry that often plagues mainstream country. (I can’t say the same for its promo video, which is featured below.)

[youtube]https://youtu.be/FjxYFome4wo[/youtube]

Musically, the album touches on a wide variety of styles with the kind of easy proficiency that can only come from Walker’s years of experience. ‘East Coast Girl’ is an interesting combination of influences, invoking Lou Reed in the spoken prosody of the verses and pure classic Springsteen in the chorus; its repeated plea “baby, baby, baby, where are you?” fairly begs for a live singalong. The heart-racing pulse and devil-may-care chorus of New York-centered track ‘Ludlow Expectations’ are even more palpably anthemic, as Walker sings lustily of “burning down the subway / running down the alleyway / high out of our minds on love.”

[youtube]https://youtu.be/JZfpUvHqJf4[/youtube]

By contrast, gentle duet ‘Descending’, co-written and sung with country artist Ashley Monroe, softens Walker’s rough-around-the-edges vocals with Monroe’s sweet and clear tone, providing just enough stridency to give the harmonies a sense of emotional traction. The album takes a mildly misogynist misstep in ‘Mexican Coke’, comparing an objectified love interest not to the narcotic but to the soft drink, which is sweetened with sugar rather than corn syrup in markets south of the American border. But that rather oafish moment is balanced by the clever traditional string arrangement of ‘Irish Exit’, a nimble pub rock song about escaping from the superficiality of the party scene, and the visceral emotionality of ‘Can We Just Not Talk About Last Night’.

Walker himself says of the album, “It’s been fun to listen to [‘Stay Gold’] in the car. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t play my records after I do ‘em. And it’s a blast to drive down the [Pacific Coast Highway] and listen.” After spending some quality time with ‘Stay Gold’ on my own car stereo, I might be lying if I didn’t admit that I’m seriously contemplating a road trip to hear these songs live on Walker’s current North American tour. A full listing of Walker’s upcoming live dates, along with enthusiastic recaps of his recently played shows, can be found on his official Facebook.

8.5/10

Butch Walker’s eighth studio album ‘Stay Gold’ is due out today, the 26th of August, on Lojinx. TGTF also reviewed his previous album ’Afraid of Ghosts’ right back here.

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4 Responses

3:53 am
27th August 2016

Just saw Butch live on Wednesday. Do the road trip. His show is worth it.

8:37 pm
27th August 2016

Loving Stay Gold so far. The title track is a great sing-along rocker, and the album has a cool mix of sounds and styles. There are some Springsteen and Petty influences here for sure, and it’s definitely a great record to play loud in the car.

Just picked up tickets to see Butch soon myself (minor road trip), can’t wait for the show!

9:35 pm
27th August 2016

As if I needed further convincing! 🙂

Crossing fingers that it works out for me to be at a show…

8:09 pm
3rd October 2016

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