Perfect 10: ‘Seth Walker Live at Mauch Chunk Opera House’

Seth Walker
‘Seth Walker Live at Mauch Chunk Opera House’ was a surprise recording, even to Walker.

Twenty years and 10 albums down the line, Seth Walker has presented his zenith thus far, a recording of the most natural, deeply engaging displays of everything that makes him a brilliant, singular artist. Deeply engaging because there he is, with a small band of real players, out in the open; his voice, the instruments, and their players’ emotions charged by the delivery of great songs to an audience. Natural because no one, including Walker and the band, knew that the venue — Pennsylvania’s curiously named Mauch Chunk Opera House — was recording the show.

Walker grew up with classically trained musician parents in rural North Carolina. He spent time in Austin, Texas, before settling in Nashville, and now New Orleans. Traces of each of those rich musical locales infuse his songs, from flowing folk to swinging blues to the piquant rhythms of Louisiana, and even to smidgens of lush country. Walker’s music is truly a melting pot of Americana.

Highlighting songs from his latest studio album, plus select gems from throughout his career, Walker is joined by bassist Miles Weeks, keyboard player Stefano Intelisano and drummer Erik Kalb. They shine from start to finish. Welcoming those in attendance with the catchy, reggae-tinged “Tomorrow,” about cherishing today, was a great move. It sets the stage for a wonderfully lively and generally positive program.

Next, “Fire in the Belly” rides a firm but easy to love melody with sparks-flying guitar, Walker’s axe inspiration Snooks Eaglin perhaps peeking through the ether. “Grab a Hold” has a drunken feel, like a stroll down a dim backstreet after a few too many, the man asking his partner to share in his blues. “High Time,” with the lyrical allegory “I got the West Coast smokes, but you better just take one toke,” swings herky-jerky around the simple desire to share a good time with another. Each band member takes a small, deserved solo during there.

Walker then honors the city they’re playing in, his family, and his influences, by performing Willie Nelson’s “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain” so gently, yet with no small measure of grit, singing in his charming tenor. All these notions and moods flow into one another like tributaries of a river, easy to float along on for the listener. And so it goes for several more on this perfect 10 of an album.

                                                                                                                                — Tom Clarke

  • Seth Walker Live At Mauch Chunk Opera House
    Label: Royal Potato Family
    Release date: Feb 22, 2018

ABOUT Tom Clarke

Tom Clarke
From pre-war blues to the bluegrass of the Virginia hills, Tom Clarke has a passion for most any kind of deep-rooted American music, and has been writing about it for 25 years. He’s particularly fond of anything from Louisiana, Los Lobos, and the Allman Brothers Band and its ever-growing family tree. Tom’s reviews and articles have appeared in BluesPrint, the King Biscuit Times, Hittin’ The Note, Kudzoo, Blues Revue, Elmore, Blues Music Magazine, and now, Tahoe Onstage. Tom and his wife Karen have raised four daughters in upstate New York. They split their time between the Adirondack Mountains and coastal South Carolina.

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