Butch Walker, “21+” from Afraid of Ghosts (2015): One Track Mind

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Being as Butch Walker has a CMA-nominated career going in mainstream country music, you might expect a track called “21+” to have something to do with hell raising in a fictional saloon. Not hardly.

Instead, Walker explores the quiet desperation of a dead-end bartending job, offering a lyric as darkly contemplative as this song’s echoing piano counterpoint. Sitting in a lonesome tavern, long after closing time, the drinks are free Walker reminds — “but I’m not.”

Just then, a smacking cadence starts, the sound of a heart quickening around the idea of getting out, of finding something in the night. As “21+” roars to its cinematic conclusion, an electric guitar squalls like gravel under a wheel well as he pulls away from the parking lot.

That fits in with the larger theme of coming to terms found on Walker’s forthcoming album Afraid of Ghosts, written over a lengthy period that included the death of his father — but recorded in a flurry of only a few days with producer Ryan Adams, a touring mate. Johnny Depp and Bob Mould are featured guest guitar players.

Butch Walker was most recently nominated for a CMA for his production work on Fuse by Keith Urban. Afraid of Ghosts, his first album since 2011’s The Spade, is due February 3, 2015 via Dangerbird Records.

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso has written for USA Today, American Songwriter, All About Jazz, and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the U.S. by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Nick is now associate editor of Ultimate Classic Rock.
Nick DeRiso
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