Carolina Story with Joshua Ray Walker - 5/19/21Wednesday, May 19 2021 6:30pm Doors / 7:30pm Start
Carolina Story with Joshua Ray Walker - 5/19/21
at City Winery Nashville
(Limited amount of single tickets available by contacting the Box Office at [email protected])
TICKETS ARE $12 IN ADVANCE, AND $15 AT THE DOOR
Blending folk intimacy, country grit, and alt-rock muscle, Carolina Story’s resilient new album, Dandelion, is an ode to survival in the face of struggle, a full-throated tribute to the power of hope and the unbreakable bonds of family. Recorded with acclaimed producer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist Paul Moak (Joy Williams, Ashley Monroe), the collection is fueled by raw, honest storytelling and lush, cinematic arrangements, expanding the homespun craftsmanship of the Nashville duo’s debut to draw on a broader, more ambitious palette, one that hints at everything from The Jayhawks and Lucinda Williams to R.E.M. and Nirvana. Though the record was written over the course of the last few years, the songs here feel eerily prescient given the current state of the world, reflecting on loneliness, depression, and economic hardship with the kind of vulnerability and empathy that can only come from lived experience. Much like the dandelion, though, Carolina Story insist on reaching for the light with their music. After more than a decade in the business, it’s all they know how to do.
“There’s just something about the dandelion that spoke to us,” says Ben Roberts, who shares vocal and songwriting duties with his wife, Emily. “It’s this humble little plant that’s so tough it can grow through cracks in concrete. It’s an underdog, just like us.”
Launched in 2009, Carolina Story built their reputation the old-fashioned way, performing countless shows from coast to coast during a whirlwind six-year run that saw them gracing stages from the Grand Ole Opry to AmericanaFest. After taking a temporary break from the road to welcome two children into the world, the duo returned in a big way in 2017, signing with the record label Black River Americana to release their studio debut, Lay Your Head Down. The album was a critical hit that helped land the band dates with the likes of Hayes Carll, Bob Schneider, and Delta Rae, among others, and prompted Rolling Stone to declare them an “Artist You Need To Know.”
Joshua Ray Walker – Wish You Were Here
A good night out drinking can find us making best friends out of people we’ve just met, but the best nights out are the ones that catch us unexpectedly sharing our innermost feelings and secrets with a complete stranger. Those uninhibited moments of truth and vulnerability are the same ones mined by Dallas singer-songwriter Joshua Ray Walker on his debut full-length Wish You Were Here. Through his incisive songwriting, Walker faithfully captures both the highs and lows of working class living.
In 2018, Walker opened for several of Texas’ favorite acts, such as Old 97’s, Eleven Hundred Springs, Two Tons of Steel, Vandoliers and James Hand at legendary venues like The Blue Light in Lubbock, Stubbs in Austin and The Dance Hall at Luckenbach. For an average of 250 nights a year, Dallas’ classic country torchbearer shares pieces of himself with an effortless sincerity that has brought his audience to both tears and laughter – often at the same time. Told through a melodic, character-driven writing style that’s honest to a fault, Walker depicts a cast of subjects on his debut that are down but never out.
There’s the portrait of a 13-year-old lady of the streets painted in his lead single “Working Girl,” which melds an up-tempo melody with clever wordplay projecting the strengths and struggles of a young woman just “doing what she’s gotta do to get by.”
“I often unintentionally write from the perspective of characters that I dream up,” says Walker. “I can usually attribute a character to a person I’ve met, or people that I’ve known, combined with similar traits I find in myself. If it’s by poor decisions or circumstances beyond their control, I find inspiration from the downtrodden and destitute. I see myself in these characters. I use these characters to explore things about myself in songs I’d otherwise be too self-conscious to write about.”
But Wish You Were Here’s best moments come when Walker sets aside the pretense of his characters, letting down his guard on tracks like the second single, “Canyon,” to reveal his own fears, biggest insecurities and insatiable longing felt throughout his father’s ongoing battle against Stage 4 lung cancer.
“I’m a big, big man,” he sings in its gut-wrenching chorus. “Not just in size or in stature, but in terms of space that can’t be filled. I’m a bottomless canyon without a drop to spill.”
Raised on the sounds of the Smoky Mountains, Walker has been playing music since he was a small child, walking next door to his grandfather’s house — an avid bluegrass fan and novice musician himself — every day after school to listen to records together. He also learned his first
banjo and guitar tunes in his grandfather’s workshop. It wasn’t long before Walker grew into a well-seasoned multi-instrumentalist by grade-school and a working musician since the age of 13.
After playing in bands throughout his teens, Walker wrote his first country song, “Fondly,” in the early morning, on Christmas Eve, 2009 -- just hours after his grandfather passed away from lung cancer that had only been diagnosed two weeks prior.
“Death and disease in loved ones seems to be a common theme in my life,” Walker admits. “I think it’s given me an intense understanding of the brevity of life. Sometimes that’s what drives me to create something worthwhile, and sometimes it’s just the motivation behind my anxiety, but either way it plays a large role in my life and music.”
That’s not to say Wish You Were Here is comprised of nothing but tear-jerkers. For every “Canyon,” that lays itself bare at your feet, there’s the wry, self-deprecating humor of a “Last Call,” that jokes about it being better, at the end of the night, to just get out of the bar before the lights come on. For every “Keep,” where the discovery of an ex’s old trinkets sends the narrator over the proverbial cliff, there’s a “Love Songs,” that gives a lighthearted kiss-off to lovers past.
Recorded by John Pedigo of The O’s (Old 97’s, Vandoliers) at Dallas Audio (where Willie Nelson recorded Red Headed Stranger) and Studio B at Modern Electric Sound Recorders, Joshua Ray Walker’s debut instantly earmarks him as one of Texas’ most gifted lyricists and musicians and a major force in the songwriting community moving forward.
“Life is about timing I guess,” Walker says. “I haven’t changed my approach or work ethic in years, but people are starting to pay attention. I’m glad it took this long. If it had been possible to make my record any sooner, it wouldn’t be this record that I’m very proud we made.”