There’s many a river, creek, or stream rolling and tumbling through the landscape of this country. Some are broad and quiet while others are small, noisy, and obscure. The fact is every single one of them is the product of a source, a wellspring from which it issues. These images come to mind while considering the recorded work of Walt Wilkins, a Texas hill country gentleman who, after a decade-long tenure in Nashville, has returned to the land that houses the well-spring from which his creative waters flow. Plenty, the latest release from Walt, is the result of that return home. Differing noticeably from his earlier releases, “Diamonds In The Sun” and “Hopewell”, Plenty is the result of having been away from home, in a land painted in bright colors and built on the premise of bright futures and success. Captured in the tracks of this new album are the facets of peace, appreciation, and comfort experienced by one who has always known where home is, regardless of the number of miles or the years that have passed. That return home to the hill country of Texas must have been akin to the sensation Moses and the Israelites felt as they stood atop Mount Nebo, after 40 years in the desert, and gazed over into the Promised Land. (I know what you’re thinking – “You Texans and your Promised Land comparisons!” Spend some time in San Antonio, Gruene, or New Braunfels, then get back to me. No apologies required. We understand.)
This new release by Wilkins, appropriately entitled Plenty, is not the typical Walt & The Mytiqueros work his long-time fans may be used to. The two afore mentioned earlier releases were built upon themes that involve grit, regret, revelry, bitter and gristly truth, and rendered in a production style that emphasized instrumentation to match. Noticeably missing from the tracks on Plenty are references to drinking off anguish, running away, holes in the heart, and crazy nights. Present, however, are songs that convey reflection, love, appreciation and all things heart-related. One such example would be “Ain’t It Just Like Love”, which is immediately reminiscent of the late 80’s Rodney Crowell/Rosanne Cash collaboration “It’s Such A Small World” (it’s worth noting that joining Wilkins on this track is Lisa Morales, of San Antonio’s Sisters Morales). One track that might, at first listen, hearken back to earlier work would be “Maybe Everybody Quit Cheatin’”, in which the protagonist finds himself to be the last bar ghost in a joint which “used to be the place I used to do so well…where are all the wild hearts I used to see…I guess the joke is on me.” But in this seemingly desolate tale of a loser comes the optimistic consideration that…
“Maybe everybody quit cheatin’,
Maybe everyone’s happy at home,
Maybe no one’s thinking about leavin’,
These are hard times to be alone
Maybe it’s the slow season
Maybe everybody quit cheatin.”
Like the Anne Murray hit back in the day, “Sure Could Use A Little Good News”, it’s an objective realization of the wrong that gives rise to a hope for the right. This two-edged approach to songwriting is one significant trait that lends credence to a writer. When a song can be conveyed in such a way that it wreaks more than one emotion in the listener, and the scalpel of truth lays open a broad enough incision that multiple issues can be gazed upon at once, then the writer has achieved a benchmark that is seldom attempted. One other track that might easily be placed on an earlier album, in the production sense, is the slide-guitar driven “Like Strother Martin”. It bears the swagger and machismo of past efforts, yet, thematically deals with the determination to gain the affections of his belle of the ball, again, keeping that theme of love and optimism intact.
There are albums that we listen to for an array of moods and circumstances. There are those day-drunk barn burners that blast out of our speakers while cruising back roads with buddies, and those that we play while washing and waxing the vehicle. There is music we listen to while riding the transit bus or train, and music we choose on the jukebox at our bars of choice. Plenty is a CD you’ll want to enjoy after a long, pleasant night out, when you’re driving home at 1:30 in the morning, or when a grueling day at work has you needing some soul comfort. Some will want this album playing softly while making preparations for that home dinner date, as the preparatory two glasses of red wine are being poured – the final touch. The reasons for these suggested scenarios of proper usage are simple. We need solace. We need to be reminded, maybe more now than ever, that there are still beautiful things in this world, in our own personal lives, that are worthy of consideration. There is still peace, beauty, hope for better things, romance, appreciation, and much splendor to experience. Songs about switchblade knives, poker games, whiskey, small revolvers, fist fights, and any other manner of raising hell, will never be replaced. They are forever important to us, but even Clint Eastwood and John Wayne enjoyed sequestering away somewhere, holed up with a hot bath, a beautiful night sky, a breathtaking sunrise, and a wonderful woman to balance out the insanity of the outside world.
So you hellions hang your hat up, take your gun belt off, pull off the dusty boots from your aching feet and look into the eyes of that significant other that softens your ol’ ticker. That hot bath water will wash away the dirt and the sweat and will ease those aching muscles and joints. Then sit out on the porch in wonder and awe at the beauty that coexists magnificently with a tough-as-hell terrain. And when you’re squeezing that little gal’s hand, make sure Walt Wilkins’s Plenty is one of your selections cued up. Welcome back to Texas Walt Wilkins. The hill country muse was waiting for ya, all along.
Listen & Purchase HERE.
~ Jeff Hopson
Jeff resides in Garland, TX and has been in the Lone Star State since September of 1989, when he moved here from his native Tennessee. After three and a half years in Nashville, he channeled the spirit of his upper East Tennessee kinsman, a certain diplomat named Crockett, and stated, “You may all go to hell…I will go to Texas”. Jeff is a songwriter and performs often in the North Texas region, and has a collection of short fiction in the works.
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