Country music is so often built on voices, distinctive personalities that convey wisdom and experience. Willie, Waylon, Johnny, Dolly – iconic names that all had their own unique sound. Each new generation throws up one or two artists that join that illustrious company. Sturgill Simpson is a recent one that comes to mind. Another is Colter Wall.
He’s only 23 years old but he sounds like a man decades older. Possessing a rich, and weathered baritone voice that is equally stern and heartfelt, the Canadian singer-songwriter showed immense promise on his debut self-titled album and now he’s realised that potential on this excellent follow-up.
He keeps things stripped back, positioning his songs somewhere between the folk of Townes Van Zandt and the country storytelling of Johnny Cash, with the lyrics and his voice up front and centre on his recordings, courtesy of go-to producer Dave Cobb. That allows the listener to immerse themselves in songs about life and culture on the Canadian plains including trains, drug dealers, barefoot hippies, junkies and saints as well the story of seeking revenge for the shooting of a 1969 Camaro.
His balance of observational writing and tales of fictional characters is a real strength as he packs 11 songs into the half hour album. It’s a wonderful example of economical songwriting that mixes heavy subject matter with streaks of dark humour in a traditional format, and featuring above all, that magnificent voice.