Operating in the misty zone between present and past, between truth and myth, and between performer and performance, we find Saskatchewan's Colter Wall. A plains-bred and now Nashville-based folk singer, Wall has spent the better part of the 2010s developing his craft, working on his impossibly rich baritone, and building an arsenal of songs that sound as ancient, in his spare acoustic performances, as they do immediate.
It shouldn't work. A self-consciously archaic approach to songwriting, wildly uncommercial arrangements, and lyrics ….
The lessons of the road make poignant songwriting fodder. The highway's combination of locomotion and seemingly boundless space offers a quiet interiority that other places cannot; with all that time and room, there's little else to do but think. It's as if the car window framing each vista were more mirror than postcard. This source of lasting revelations has inspired its own compendium of songs, from George Strait's homeward-bound "Amarillo by Morning" to Miranda Lambert's nomadic "Highway Vagabond." While Canadian singer-songwriter Colter Wall toured behind his 2017 self-titled debut, the road, as it often does, whispered thoughts of home--his native prairies, to be exact.
Songs of the Plains bears album art uncannily reminiscent of country albums released during the 1960s. The visual resemblance is intentional, just like how Colter Wall's somber evocation of Johnny Cash and Waylon Jennings is purposeful. Wall's resonant baritone falls somewhere between those two legends, but his approach leans toward the mythic folk of Cash.
Photo credit: Little Jack Films Colter Wall's latest album, Songs of the Plains could provoke those old authenticity questions. The country singer looks deep into his own musical and biographical roots to create an ode to his home region, Saskatchewan and the Canadian plains. Much of the album sounds lifted from the middle of the last century. Wall told me in an interview earlier this year that he was influenced by Marty Robbins and Tex Ritter on this record, and it shows.