Release Date: Feb 3, 2015
Record label: Dangerbird Records
Butch Walker Afraid of Ghosts (Dangerbird) 4 out of 5 stars Based on his voluminous and eclectic track record as a solo recording artist, band leader of the under-appreciated hard rockers Marvelous 3, songwriter for hire, multi-instrumentalist backing musician and producer for artists as diverse as Taylor Swift, Avril Lavigne, Fall Out Boy, Pink and errr…Lindsay Lohan, it’s doubtful Butch Walker is afraid of ghosts or anything else. But the reflective vibe of his seventh album shows a vulnerable side to the auteur seldom seen before. Previous releases have included the occasional ballad, but Afraid of Ghosts is comprised entirely of pensive, meditative material.
The wildly gifted, criminally underheard Walker has had a circuitous career, bounding from late ’80s metal (SouthGang) via late ’90s alt-rock (Marvelous 3) to a solid new-millennium career as both a solo artist exploring power pop and rootsier sounds and an in-demand producer to pop, rock, and country stars (Pink, Fall Out Boy, Taylor Swift). Walker’s albums and live shows have often proved to be wildly raucous affairs, but the Georgia native slows his pace for his seventh album, “Afraid of Ghosts. ” Produced by buddy Ryan Adams, and featuring guest shots from Bob Mould and Johnny Depp, “Ghosts” is a gorgeous, contemplative effort rooted in loss: familial — explicitly including the death of his father and a family friend — and perhaps romantic also, as the album is suffused with melancholy.
Butch Walker is a rock ’n’ roll chameleon. The Georgia native began his career playing Southern-boogie hair metal and skinny-tie power-pop in the cult bands SouthGang and Marvelous 3, respectively, before becoming an on-demand producer for pop-punk and Top 40 acts, and a cheeky solo artist fond of homages to glam, new wave, and twang greats. With most other artists, this stylistic gear-shifting would feel chaotic, but Walker’s commitment to emphasizing songwriting first—no matter what the style—has always secured his relevance.
Butch Walker has been toiling away somewhere just outside the spotlight of rock & roll for the better part of two decades, eventually carving out a curious niche for himself. Opportunities came and went beginning with SouthGang, a metal band in the time of grunge, then running through the Marvelous 3, whose 1999 hit "Freak of the Week" showed Walker had a commercial ear. He traded upon that skill, working behind the scenes as a collaborative songwriter as he cranked out his own records, establishing enough connections to actually get him placed on the 2008 reality show competition Rock Star: Supernova, all of which didn't do much in terms of getting him another hit of his own.