Seth Walker – Time Can Change (review)

Seth Walker – Time Can Change (Roe Records) review

A delightful blend of understated acoustic soul.

For his seventh record,  Seth Walker decided to scale things back.  Accompanied on most of the songs by little more than bass, sparse percussion and Walker’s own acoustic guitar, the tracks on Time Can Change have space to breathe – leaving room for Walker’s inviting voice – kind of a mix between an older Eric Clapton and Bill Withers, with a little of jazz/blues great Mose Allison’s affectation thrown in for good measure.  It’s the kind of singing that doesn’t intimidate; the kind that you might think you could do yourself with a little practice (you’d probably be wrong). This understated arrangement makes for an excellent background CD.  Yet, don’t let the mellow mood here fool you – if you dig a little deeper, reading the lyrics and dissecting the melodies – there are some great songs here.  Walker joined forces once again with Nashville songwriting ace Gary Nicholson (who we interviewed back in 2011 – click here to listen).  The two of them help write the bulk of the album.

The disc begins with “Love is Through With Me” –  propelled by a lazy bass and Rhodes piano, Walker cooly sings “this love thing, is just a little too much work.”  He may have been through pain and misery, but he’s not showing his cards.  Still, his tasty guitar solo and the stop/start part at the end makes the track a keeper.  Better still, is “Stronger Than You Need to Be” – with the chords and “helping hand” lyrics, this could be a lost Staple Singers’ track, albeit without the horns.  The jazzy “Find Myself Lost” sounds very much like Allison, with Walker again turning in a cool vocal.

In something that almost never happens anymore, the disc actually gets better during the second half.  “Wait a Minute” has a Drifters’ feel (think “Under the Boardwalk”).  Then there’s the fantastic ballad, “All This Love.”  The track is elevated by a Hammond organ and a slinky guitar that borrows heavily from Steve Cropper.  But, it’s Walker that really shines here.  As he sings of picking up the pieces after his lover has left, he turns in the best performance of the entire record.  It’s not that his delivery is too-far removed from the rest of the album – it’s just that there’s a passion behind the words that seems to be lacking in some of the other cuts.  The difference is subtle, but definitely noticeable – here he totally nails it.

A couple of the tracks near the end seem to borrow from styles long ago – “Something’s Come Over Me” features a very light jazz electric guitar over a melody that sounds like something Sinatra would’ve loved.  “What Now,” with it’s blues progression, recalls the  Tin Pan Alley-era – Walker turns in one of his most soulful performances here.  The album closes on an upbeat note with the finger snapping “More Days Like This.”

Walker paid for the entire project through a Kickstarter program, funded by his fans.  He certainly spent their money well – proving that you don’t need a big-time studio to come up with an excellent record.  Time Can Change mixes country and soul, and ends up sounding like neither – which means it’s the kind of album that gets better with each listen.  –Tony Peters