Seth Walker at Sam's Burger Joint and Music Hall, March 15, 2013

SethWalker has the uncanny ability to make a song feel like a treasured classic and vibrantly new all at the same time. His distinctive sound – a smooth, soulful voice interlaced with masterful guitar playing – shines brightly on “Sky Still Blue,” set for a June 10th release from The Royal Potato Family record label.

In his eighth album, Walker returns to the blues that he gravitated toward when he first picked up the guitar. The North Carolina-born singer-songwriter credits his move to New Orleans a year and a half ago to the album’s feel.

“This one I think incorporates, gets back to some blues guitar stuff – that’s what got me started,” Walker said in a phone interview June 3.

“I wanted to turn it up a little bit, you know, and I think the New Orleans influence has definitely crept in … you mix those two things with the collaboration with Oliver Wood (The Wood Brothers) on the songwriting and production end, and that’s the product,” Walker said.

“Life in New Orleans is great. I’m not there a whole lot but when I am there, I’m very influenced by the city,” Walker said. “The tradition and the culture – it’s the whole place. It’s syncopated. And I really enjoy soaking it up and I think it’s definitely seeped in. I’m really enjoying it.”

The title of the new album comes from a lyric in the song “High Wire” – “If it pours down on you and the sky is still blue / It might be me crying from my high wire.” When I first heard the song, its cadence reminded me of Walker’s 2006 mournful ode to Hurricane Katrina, “2’ left to the ceiling.” And hearing the lyrics, “I’m up here on this chair,” I couldn’t help but picture him hanging on to his tenuous post above floodwaters.

But don’t believe for a second that such a lonesome image sets the tone for the whole collection. A news release publicizing “Sky Still Blue” calls the feel a “funky melting-pot swagger.” When I listened to some of the tracks, in particular “Tomorrow,” the first word that came to mind was “sassy.” And the horn-infused “All That I’m Asking” had me chanting: “More cowbell!”

Another new favorite is “For a Moment There,” where the pleasant tinkling of piano keys made me wanna grab a dance partner and scoot across a wooden floor strewn with sawdust.

Yes, his music is that visual. It’s easy to understand when Walker describes the album’s creation.

“One thing that really came through on that album is the fact that all the players on it – from the musicians and the engineers, to the producers and the writers – are all like a big family. And I think that comes through,” he said.

Walker is also thrilled that this venture will be his first in wax.

“It’s my 8th album and I’ve never printed on wax. Wax is on the way back and it’s pretty cool so we’re excited about that. I’m hoping we’ll have vinyl for the San Antonio show (June 12). There’s an experience to the vinyl, from the sound, the grooves, the ritual of it,” Walker explained, who also wrote about the experience in his “From the Road” blog.

As Walker’s song catalog grows, he often finds himself with difficult decisions.

“Songs are like relationships, they really are. And a little bit of them, just like any relationship you have, stays with you. As you move forward to the next relationship … some of that influence is present in the new, some more than others. It’s all connected, obviously, at least for me,” he said.

“But sometimes it is hard when you’re making a set list and there’s some of your old babies that’ you’ve neglected a long time. You can’t sing them all. Some of them you just move past, because they don’t resonate as well as they used to.”

Walker’s fans can find a whole new collection of songs that will resonate with them when “Sky Still Blue” is released tomorrow. Go to his website to order your copy, or better yet, check him out live at one of his upcoming shows.

That’s all that I’m asking…

Seth Walker at Sam's Burger's Joint and Music Hall, Sept. 27, 2013.


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