By Joshua Wallace
Colter Wall is back with the follow up to his self titled debut full length LP. Songs of the Plains is Colter’s love letter to his home province of Saskatchewan, Canada and the lifestyles you will find of the plainsfolk throughout. A lot of the album is bare-bones with Colter and his guitar, but where you find instrumentation, Dave Cobb has pieced together an all star band featuring the likes of Lloyd Green on pedal steel guitar and Mickey Raphael on harmonica. Pair them with regular players Chris Powell on drums and Jason Simpson on bass, add in a couple of special guests and you have the makings of a great sophomore record.
This record is a mix of traditional cuts and originals however you would be hard pressed to guess which are which without looking at the songwriting credits. There are in fact only 2 cowboy traditionals and one older tune by Wilf Carter. The fact that these blend in nicely with Colter’s originals is a testament to the production of the album and Colter’s performance and song crafting abilities.
One of my favorites on the album is “Saskatchewan in 1881”. This track has been around as Colter has been playing it live for a while. For those familiar with the live cuts either in person or on YouTube, the recorded version does not disappoint. This track heavily features Mickey Raphael on harmonica to provide the appropriate atmosphere for the tale weaved throughout the track. Another favorite is “John Beyers (Camero Song)”. Colter Wall is very good at telling stories through his songs and this one is no different. This song is about two guys feuding over a Camaro. It’s a tale of outlaw justice that needs to be heard to do it justice. It reminds me a lot of last year’s “Thirteen Silver Dollars”.
Colter does an amazing cover of the Billy Don Burns tune “Wild Dogs” which previously appeared on the Billy Don Burns album A Night In Room 8. Colter does an amazing job with the track and I hope he gets around to doing more Billy Don Burns songs as the two have a similar vocal style and Billy’s songs fit Colter very well. I have to mention Lloyd Green’s excellent pedal steel solo on this track which adds to the western feel of the song. Speaking of the western and plains folk motif of the album, “Night Herding Song” is one of the cowboy traditionals and this track heavily features Colter’s vocal abilities and yodeling. This track is so far the best showcase of Colter’s vocal ability and not to be missed if you love a good yodel.
I really dig the truck driving song “Thinkin’ On A Woman”. I love songs about truckers and Colter does the tradition well with a song about a lonely truck driver who can’t stop thinking about a woman. Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the other cowboy traditional on the album “Tying Knots In The Devil’s Tail”. This song features the vocal stylings of fellow Canadian troubadours Corb Lund and Blake Berglund. It’s a stark contrast to the more serious “Night Herding Song” as this is a more fun affair with a faster shuffling beat.
In closing, Colter has turned in one hell of an album in Songs Of The Plains. It continues to build on the sound he created with his Imaginary Appalachia EP and his self titled debut LP. It helps solidify him among the greatest song crafters of our generation as he blends his original tracks with older cowboy traditionals perfectly. He also stretches his unique vocal ability on this record and shows that he knows how to use it. Songs Of The Plains is out everywhere you can find good music on Friday October 12th, 2018.
Favorite Tracks : Saskatchewan in 1881, John Beyers (Camaro Song), Wild Dogs, Night Herding Song, The Trains Are Gone, Thinkin’ On A Woman
Colter Wall – Song Of The Plains (2018)
- Plain To See Plainsman
- Saskatchewan in 1881
- John Beyers (Camaro Song)
- Wild Dogs
- Calgary Round-Up
- Night Herding Song
- Wild Bill Hickok
- The Trains Are Gone
- Thinkin’ On A Woman
- Tying Knots In The Devil’s Tail (Feat. Corb Lund & Blake Berglund)