Colter Wall : Imaginary Appalachia

2016 : YMRE / Windrow Entertainment
Format : CD

So about now some of you are probably thinking “Has he lost his mind? What’s up with this redneck shit?”. And to that I say, fuck you, it’s my website. I’ll review what I want. I spent most of my formative years like most, rebelling against everything your parents hold dear. For me that was mainly strict Southern Baptists beliefs and “Hillbilly” music. That covered Country, Bluegrass and Gospel. So I immersed myself in a steady diet of Punk Rock and Heavy Metal. As the years progressed, the “darker” things got. I spent a lot of time just as narrow-minded as those I despised, only realizing well into my adult years the treasure trove of music I’d turned a deaf ear too. Like a lot of folks, Johnny Cash was my gateway drug and the whole Outlaw Country crew. The hard drinkers and drug takers who lived what they sang about. Then I stumbled into the magic that is Townes Van Zandt, a legendary artists that more than a few Metal musicians count among their heroes. Hell, I even got hooked a fair share of Bluegrass. Some of those songs are so black, they make Watain sound like Kidz Bop.

In the past few years, there’s been a resurgence in young artists trying to hard to reignite the flames of the legends that are slowly but surely dying off, and to varying degrees of success. A few of them have the pedigrees the feel makes them heir apparent to some Outlaw crown, but to me they mostly seem as pale pretenders, trying too hard to squeeze some essence of legitimacy from their DNA. Then along comes this kid from Canada and blows the doors off of the saloon. This man knows how to craft a song, and channels the ghost of Mr. Cash in his voice without coming off as some Vegas tribute act, and his youth betrays the age in that voice.

The album kicks off  with “Sleeping On The Blacktop”, a roadhouse romper that’ll get your hands clapping and will also be the rocket booster to get Colter’s career lunar. It’ll be featured in the the new film “Hell Or High Water”, which also features a score by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis. The was the hook that reeled me in and how I stumbled across Mr. Wall to begin with. As good as that track is, the remainder of the album are the real shiners. It’s my hope that folks will get intrigued enough by the film to seek out the record. Next up is “Johnny Boy’s Bones”, a Civil War ballad with a Bluegrass edge and help from The Dead South. That’s sure not to win too many friends in today’s political climate, but that kind of middle finger is just what makes it great. Belle Plaine steps in to lend a hand on “Caroline”, a tear-jerking ballad with harmonies that’ll have you swearing it’s just dust in your eye.

Colter covers some Townes here with a stripped-down and righteous version of “Nothin'” originally released on 1971’s “Delta Momma Blues” album, but if you’d told me “Living On Sand” was a TVZ cover as well, I’d have believed you. It’s as true to the mans ghost as you can get. “Ballad of a Law Abiding Sophisticate” is a one of those humorous Hillbilly jams sung with a toke and a smirk. The over-all-too-soon album closer is the Bluesy “The Devil Wears a Suit and Tie”, one of those killer Country story songs that no one does anymore.

Like I said, this may seem out of place to some of you, but this is a CD I’ve near a hole in (but I have it on good authority a vinyl version is on the way). And that’s why I’m here, if I like it, I want you to know about. That and I listen to what I want and so should you. As a friend of mine says, “there’s no guilty pleasures when it comes to music”. And with that, I’ll leave you with the video below. It was written after “Imaginary Appalachia” was released, but will see the light of day some time soon. It’s too good to not share.
Photo: Chris Graham Photography

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