Release Date: Aug 26, 2016
Record label: Dangerbird Records
Butch Walker recalls heartland rock’s glory days with Stay Gold, a record that continues the new winning streak he started with 2015’s excellent Afraid of Ghosts. The rough, ready rocking evident on the opening title track summons the spirit of ’86 when bands such as the Del Fuegos, the Del-Lords, BoDeans and the almighty Rainmakers spoke truth to power with simple chords and a belief that, despite mounting evidence to the contrary, life could be worth living. Heartland rock didn’t earn its name because it came from the middle of the country (though some of it did) but because it came from that most storied organ, the very thing that got splayed out on masterfully-constructed A and B sides all the way up until about 1989.
Butch Walker’s new album, Stay Gold, is classic, earnest rock ‘n’ roll, the kind of songwriter-driven pop that really doesn’t have a home anymore that sits nicely beside Alejandro Escovedo, Old 97’s, and Uncle Tupelo. Walker has roots in hair metal, power pop, and even pure Top 40, having worked with both Taylor Swift and All American Rejects. The man has many talents from producer, to multi-instrumentalist to producer, but more than anything the man knows his way around a hook.
Butch Walker is a guy who wants it both ways -- he wants to write personal songs full of telling details and anecdotes, but he also wants them to sound like anthems that will fill up arenas and burst out of the radio. Walker has done more than his share of creative shape-shifting since he launched his solo career in 2004, and on 2016's Stay Gold, he sounds like this year's goal is to be Bruce Springsteen, with Keith Richards playing guitar and lending occasional melodic advice. Walker's grand scale heartland rock, seasoned with the swagger of an overgrown street kid, sounds pretty convincing on Stay Gold, though the snarky guy looking for cheap weed and good times on the title cut doesn't sound the same as the lovelorn dude wearing his heart on his sleeve on "Descending.
Americana storyteller finds beauty in the minutiae of life Butch Walker’s previous album, Afraid Of Ghosts, written in the wake of his father’s death, was his darkest. Stay Gold finds him facing the future by looking backwards, on a record stuffed with homages to the artists who inspired him, from Bruce Springsteen to The Pretenders. ADVERTISINGinRead invented by Teads Lyrically, especially, this is a portrait of Springsteen’s America, the opening title track placing us among the mill workers of Walker’s Georgia home own and celebrating their bar-room sense of positivity in a dead-end town.
Perhaps it was inevitable that Ryan Adams and Butch Walker would eventually cross paths and strike up a creative partnership. Both men are prolific road warriors and musical chameleons, and each also successfully navigates the tightrope between songwriting and production. In fact, Walker’s Adams-produced 2015 solo album, Afraid Of Ghosts, on which he excavates and grapples with the grief caused by his beloved father passing away, ranks among the best of his releases.
FILE UNDER: FREEWHEELING AMERICAN ROCK ROCKS LIKE: Bruce Springsteen, Ryan Adams, the Gaslight Anthem WHAT'S DIFFERENT: Walker’s eighth full-length comes on the heels of 2015’s Afraid Of Ghosts, a heartbreaking album centered on the death of his father. The ebullient songs on Stay Gold lean more toward the bratty fun of 2011’s The Spade: Walker’s imbued each with remarkably nuanced and precise storytelling details, from the cheeky double entendre “Mexican Coke” and the Asbury Park anthem “Ludlow Expectations” to the uproarious Celtic-specked rocker “Irish Exist” and gorgeous country-laced ballads (“Descending,” “Record Store”). You get the sense some of the names and stories have been changed to protect the guilty—maybe even Walker himself—but what’s rock ‘n’ roll without a little rule-breaking? WHY YOU SHOULD CARE: The chameleonic singer/songwriter has tried his hand at power pop, arena rock, glam rock and alt-country over the years, but the sound on Stay Gold is what suits him best: heart-on-sleeve Americana that’s equal parts earnest and exuberant.