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Colter Wall (Young Mary's Music, 2017)

Colter Wall

Reviewed by Greg Yost

You may not expect the young son of a Canadian premier, the head of government for a province or territory, to also be a gritty singer/songwriter and one of the most promising new voices in folk and country music, but that's exactly what you get in Colter Wall.

The 22-year-old troubadour from Saskatchewan, who also happens to be the son of that province's premier, Brad Wall, is turning heads with his eponymous and independently released new album - a collection that pays homage to some of Wall's influences and reveals the artist as a talent more than capable of telling his own captivating tales.

There is no tale here more captivating than "Kate McCannon," which finds Wall channeling the traditional murder ballad form. Wall draws the listener in from the first stanza, which is about a raven outside the prison mocking the condemned prisoner, before presenting that man's own recollections of killing his lover after finding her in the arms of someone else.

Other standouts here include "Codeine Dream," a stark and languid expression of life after loss and "You Look To Yours," a seemingly autobiographical tale about Wall being rebuked by three separate women in three bars across North America. Wall also impresses with "Thirteen Silver Dollars," a song about an encounter with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police during which the narrator replies to a question by slyly singing Jimmie Rodgers's "Blue Yodel #9."

When it comes to influences, there may be no greater presence looming over this record than the late great Townes Van Zandt. The two cover songs are a Van Zandt original, "Snake Mountain Blues," and a Lawton Williams tune Van Zandt recorded, "Fraulein," which features guest vocals from fellow rising star Tyler Childers.

Another influence here is the folksinger Arlo Guthrie. Wall calls out "old Arlo" by name in "Motorcycle," a song he wrote after listening to Guthrie's classic 1967 album Alice's Restaurant, which includes "The Motorcycle Song."

The disc is also notable for the production work of Dave Cobb, the studio master known for his collaborations with artists like Sturgill Simpson, Chris Stapleton, Jason Isbell and Wheeler Walker Jr. The beauty of this mostly acoustic recording is that Cobb chose to present Wall with only minimal instrumental support - a move that allowed both the narratives and the power of his deep and emotive vocals to shine.

CDs by Colter Wall

Colter Wall, 2017

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