Country music is a funny beast. It’s a very sentimental style of music, harking back to a simpler life when McDonalds wasn’t on every street, Starbucks wasn’t fuelling your day and the starry night sky wasn’t interrupted by passing satellites and fumes from the nearby highway. Maybe that’s the attraction; the shiny, postcard view of America where songs about farmsteads, last dances and tractors remind us that life is good, and it’s understandable that it’s reach is long.
TJ Walker is a fan of the genre, this is clear, but dig deeper and there is also a rich songwriter at work here. Sure, there are things that work and things that don’t but that’s music in general, creating something is all about adding and removing, attempting and replacing but the real winner here is the lyrics.
It’s never easy to build a scenario within a few small verses but on his debut album, ‘The Long Game’, he manages to do just that. I felt some of the songs were slightly over long, ‘Funky Country Boy’ wouldn’t have made the final cut, there is some questionable auto-tune-like backing vocals on ‘What Did You Do’ and I felt there was something missing from the overall production to make it stand out from the over-crowded invasion of releases in this style but I think what is missing is other musicians.
Walker has taken the decision to write, record, produce and mix the album on his own, and, in all fairness, it’s a very, very good attempt. No one will argue he can’t write or play, but having a real-life drummer or, in this case, a bass player with the only goal of making the bass sound the best it can, would have lifted the songs. Having the immediate energy of other musicians in the room to feed off and communicate with would have taken the songs into another level. He would definitely be someone worth watching live, because the songs are good, and the heart is there.
We start the album on a high with ‘Cowboy Outta Me’ before we go into familiar territory before hitting a peak in the middle three songs of ‘Roisin’, ‘I Shoulda Been A Cowboy’ (which has a certain Don Henley/Eagles vibe to it) and ‘Being The Best I Can Be’, before cooling off to the final song ‘Someday’.
Is the album worth downloading and giving a few minutes of your time? Yes, for all of it’s dents and imperfections, it’s glossy, well written and, hopefully is a spring board to what he does next.