Music audiences around the world were first introduced to Seth Walker with the release of his eponymous long-player on Hyena Records in 2007. It would hit the top twenty of the Americana and Living Blues charts, while receiving praise from publications like No Depression, Blues Revue and Maverick UK Magazine. Creative Loafing wrote, "Seth Walker is a splendid mix of roots styles: blues, soul and Americana, featuring deep-fried guitar licks, churchy organ and crisp horns, mostly delivered over spot-on shuffles." Westword declared, "Seth Walker serves Southern roots guit-pickin' and blues songcraft with ease and grace. Echoing a variety of artists, from Jimmy Reed to Ray Charles, he slips expertly from loose-jointed shuffles to organ-inflected feel-good fare and a whole lot more. An old soul with new fingers, Walker cooks from start to finish." The Austin-based artist hit the road extensively throughout '08, performing at world-renowned festivals like Flat Rock in North Carolina, Springfest in Florida, Rawa Blues Festival in Poland and Moulin Blues in Holland. He headlined shows across the U.S., often playing to sold-out rooms, while joining the likes of Johnny Winter, Marcia Ball and Robert Cray for opening appearances.
It would seem to those previously unfamiliar with Seth Walker that he emerged practically overnight as one of the fastest rising stars in blues and roots' music. Yet, the 35-year old songwriter, singer and guitarist has been plying his craft in Austin, Texas for upwards of a decade. Growing up on a commune in rural North Carolina, the son of classically trained musicians, Seth played cello before discovering the guitar in his late teens. His introduction to the blues came via his Uncle Landon Walker who was both a musician and disc jockey. Before long Seth was looking to artists like T-Bone Walker, Snooks Eaglin and B.B. King as a wellspring of endless inspiration. During a brief stint in Jacksonville, Florida trying to figure out his life's calling, Seth made a definitive decision "to sing for his supper," reasoning there was no better place on earth to cut his teeth in such a trade than "the greatest music city on earth" Austin.
"I'm pushing 14 years now having resided in the Austin city limits," says Walker. "Through it's multi-cultural, competitive, and free spirited vibe, I have grown a much deeper understanding of my music and myself. Not to mention, Austin has definitely kept the grease in my musical recipes
Skip forward to 2009 when Seth Walker returns with his sixth and unquestionably finest record to date, Leap Of Faith. There couldn't, in fact, be a more apropos title. Intent on stepping up his game and exploring new musical territory, Seth took his hard earned Austin cred to Nashville; challenging himself to keep the grit of his Texas home, but spit-shine his songs just enough to reach wider audiences. He hooked up with Grammy Award-winning producer and songwriter Gary Nicholson, a veteran at achieving exactly Seth's goals with artists like Chris Knight, Jimmy Thackery and Delbert McClinton. The resulting 12-track collection hits the nail squarely on the head, presenting the stunning range for which Seth has built his reputation, but refining it to a diamond shimmer.
"Previously, I had always recorded albums my way, on my turf. This was different from the get go due to the fact that we recorded in Nashville with a new team of musicians, a new engineer and a new feeling," explains Seth. "I was out of my comfort zone, and it made me reach for something unknown to me."
From the opening barnburner "Can't Come With You," Seth Walker is off to the races. A swaggering downtown groove is juxtaposed against the sophistication of uptown horns. "Rewind" calls to mind many a Brill Building classic. It would have been hit single in days when the requisite for topping the charts was a great song. "I Got A Song" is unlike anything Seth has recorded in his career--a pure ballad with a soaring string section and staccato guitar wrapped around an exquisite vocal: "How I love and lost and I paid the cost, always knowing it was all my fault, 'cause I knew all along, it was gonna go wrong, but at least I got a song."
Although Seth had a hand in writing nine of the 12 songs on Leap Of Faith, he proves himself equally as capable interpreting the material of other songwriters. A snarling rendition of the Percy Mayfield chestnut "Memory Pain" highlights how deep his rhythm and blues' roots run. Conversely, his take on Nick Lowe's "Lately I've Let Things Slide," illustrates the wide realm of musical influences from which he draws. One of his finest moments yet captured on "wax," Seth, wistful and confessionary, sings like a man who knows the feeling all too well: "There's a cut upon my brow, must have banged myself somehow, but I don't remember now, and the front door's open wide, lately I've let things slide."
"Lay Down (River of Faith)" continues to build on the record's underlying theme of faith. A gorgeous gospel lullaby, the vocal is entwined around a sanctified slide guitar capable of offering conviction to even the most skeptical. A trio of back to back scorchers found on the record's second half: "I Don't Dance," "Something Fast" and "In The Dark," are surefire roof-raisers in Seth's live performances, but here they also serve to contrast the beauty of the closing number "Falling Out Of Love." More than empathy for regret, the remorse in both lyric and performance is nothing short of Seth mining the saddest corners of his own first hand experiences.
"This album was made during a time in my life when I was caught up in some shadows," Walker concludes. "The idea of a leap of faith actually does reflect where I was at personally and making this record was the light for me."