If Harry Nilsson, Paul Simon, and Warren Zevon had a love child, his name would be Walker Lukens. This Austin settled, by wayof Houston and New York City musician is that good, and with his new album Devoted he has managed to combine the raw, vulnerable musings of Nilsson, the pop sensibility of Simon, and the “on the edge” coolest guy in the room vibe of Warren at his Excitable Boy peak.
With the current Mumford-ization trend that is so popular in today’s musical landscape, it is somewhat of a refreshing change to find a record that is equally, if not more enjoyable than any of the recent releases by Mumford and Sons, The Lumineers, or Dawes, that does not make use of the trendy mandolin or dobra, a refreshing change that is worth the price of admission alone.
With song titles like “Drunk Logic,” “The Night I Was Kissed by Patti Smith,” and “Kindle to Your Fire,” titles that would Make Tom Waits blush, Devoted is an old-school soul with an Indie heart sort of listen. The lyrics were all written during a 2012 East Coast tour, a spirit that somewhat flows through the record as the moods and sequencing have a certain next day, new city feel.
The album opens with the piano chords of “Drunk Logic” a somewhat mournful effort where Walker laments that all his friends have steady lovers and have all gone away, a sentiment that seems to get even a bit sadder as the poignantly placed organ drifts in toward the last 1/3 of the song. I can’t remember a song with just a voice, a couple of piano chords, and an organ that sounded so good. I would have placed this selection towards the end of the record, but that minor nuance aside, this is an all-encompassing, moving song.
“I Was Kissed by Patti Smith,” a song that could have been on any Paul Simon album, ups the fun quotient a bit, and while it never does mention Patti Smith directly, it does leave the first time listener wondering what they are in store for next after a pair of numbers that are pretty disparate in mood, but are both artistically elegant in their own way.
My first exposure to this album was by way of the first video “Dear Someone,” a brilliantly made stop action video, where the song, an almost epic sounding slice of power pop, combined with the visuals is certainly top notch.
The song “Brunch People” could have been on a before substance abuse took its toll Harry Nilsson record, with super production value complete with orchestral string arrangements that provided a real W-T-F moment for me. I even had to sit down, take another sip of McAllen 10 year, my go to choice for good music listening, just to make sure I had not been transported by way of some way-back machine all the way to the year 1979. This is a seriously good tune.
“Kindle to your Fire” is somewhat of a departure in that it has a more contemporary electronica sort of feel to it with a strong lead from Walker and almost Beach Boy style vocals in the background. This song is one of those tunes that definitely is more than the sum of its parts. I am still trying to wrap my ears around this one. As someone that likes to describe songs in terms of influence, this song does indeed flummox me. Changing moods from Beach Boys, to a tinge of Doo Wop, all the way to James Murphy and LCD Soundsystem, this song pleasantly and sublimely soothes me. Let’s just say it is brilliant, I like it, and we will leave it at that.
Devoted, is as polished an album as you will hear all year, by an artist that deserves to be a years in the making overnight success. My only hope is that this album finds an audience. When JFK in Scotland asks me where he can get the album on his side of the pond, and Larry in Chicago compares Walker favorably to Harry Nilsson, I wonder that since they are both roughly 2 ½ times the age of the concert goer that recently attended the cd release party in Austin, could one single album appeal to such a wide demographic and still be successful.
I say Hell to the Yeah!
And Walker, I will stand on Phil Ochs’ peach crate, inside of Woody Guthrie’s empty boxcar, in the middle of a Nebraska cornfield during a protest, with a satellite feed from farm aid, and loudly proclaim that Devoted is not a folk record, and Walker Lukens is not a folk singer.
– Walt Falconer, Houston Texas, USA