Album Review – Joshua Ray Walker’s “Glad You Made It”
Eschewing the hipness of east Nashville and Austin to instead walk the culture hungry streets of Dallas, Texas, Joshua Ray Walker is a big man with a high lonesome voice and heartfelt songs who is quickly rising up the independent country music depth charts. A songwriter and honky-tonker with a head full of words and a heart full of blues, his musings, yodels, and moans are featured on his second record called Glad You Made It that just might mark the breakout point for his young career.
Walker wastes no time going to work on your emotional receptors in the new record, starting it off with the tale of a man making the choice to roll his truck into the lake instead of struggling to keep on living, polishing off a bottle as he does to “make it look like a mistake.” This is the kind of mercilessness Joshua Ray Walker shows to jerk those tears out like only the finest country music can.
Country music is what you will find on Glad You Made It, and in ample doses, including full-throttle and wide open chicken pickin’ hoedowns like you get with “Bronco Billy’s” featuring the hot steel guitar of Adam Kurtz, and then the fiddle, dobro, and acoustic guitar interplay of “Play You A Song.” But to shake it up, Joshua Ray interjects some serious rock in songs as well, first appearing through the Mark Knopfler tones of “Cupboard,” and then on the final song, the fire-breathing “D.B. Cooper.” Horns even make an appearance on a couple of tracks for extra flavor.
Joshua Ray Walker’s yodel and high range mark a highlight of the record, including on the opening song “Voices” with it’s rather impressive elongated bridge, in the more Cajun cadences of “True Love,” and in the more lonesome moments of “Loving County.” After what Charlie Robison did a few years back toasting what’s regarded as the most lonesome county in the lower 48, you better be up to the task of doing right by the subject matter, and Joshua Ray’s clean and confident yodel definitely is.
But this isn’t just a record of sounds, it’s a record of words. Most Joshua Ray Walker fans would regard him as a songwriter first, and Glad You Made It adds to that reputation. But unlike some moments of his debut, the entertainment value of the music is not always a secondary concern, and sometimes the genius of the writing is more subtle. “User” is a deft tune, smartly characterizing the moments and mentality that addicts fall into when they fall off the wagon—the little lies they tell themselves, and the sense of euphoria at just the notion of using again. It’s so potent, one may worry it could stimulate a relapse inadvertently.
But sometimes the words are just there to compliment the music, like in the mostly instrumental “Play You A Song.” By offering a more well-rounded listening experience, Joshua Ray Walker allows his more heartfelt and heady expressions to be heard by a wider and more receptive audience. You don’t have to throw a melancholic haymaker each track. Sometimes you can just have a little fun.
In the review for Walker’s debut record Wish You Were Here, the observation was shared, “It’s one of those albums you feel like you’ll be looking back on years from now as a grand and auspicious start … You hear how he’s got his best days ahead of him, and he’s an artist you’ll be enjoying a decade from now. He’s a ruby in the rough.”
Glad You Made It still includes moments and decisions that feel like Joshua Ray Walker is still figuring out who he is. He’s country, but he can be lured to distinctly rock expressions for the right song. He’s a songwriter, but sometimes he just wants to let loose. But overall, this record feels a bit more well-rounded. The promise you heard on the first record begins to feel fulfilled on this second one. He’s learned how better to write to his vocal and thematic strengths, and he’s finding out what he has to contribute that is unique to music.
Making use of writing and singing skills that are uncommon and compelling, Joshua Ray Walker’s Glad You Made It is worthy of making room for in your listening rotation.
1 3/4 Guns Up (8/10)
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Purchase from State Fair Records
Purcahse from Amazon
July 10, 2020 @ 8:15 am
‘He’s a songwriter, but sometimes he just wants to let loose.’
Not. Mutually Exclusive.
July 12, 2020 @ 11:27 pm
Yeah I’ve heard some Dale Watson where he let loose in the lyrics. Willie too. For that’s when it gets REAL good.
July 10, 2020 @ 8:23 am
I am a big fan, but have to admit “Boat Show Girl” almost lost me. I can’t tell if it was going for funny and missed or if it is just the dumbest lyric ever written. Looking forward to hearing the whole record though.
July 10, 2020 @ 11:09 am
What’s dumb about it? JRW specializes in wry absurdist lyricism, focusing on a slice of life or a character that’d usually go overlooked or, sadly, dismissed, maligned, or discarded entirely. Sex workers, truck drivers, anonymous last-call romantics, and yes boat show girls. JRW isn’t trying to make us laugh at the subject of the song, he’s trying to make us empathize. It’s one of JRW’s strengths. Lesser songwriters fail at that delicate balance, pretty badly, all the time.
July 10, 2020 @ 12:31 pm
I think it’s a good song. Pretty much the same story as Whiskey Myers’ Broken Window Serenade, but certainly less morbid. At least the Boat Show Girl still has a chance to change her course…
July 10, 2020 @ 8:26 am
This is such a stellar output for a sophomore record. Well done JRW!
July 10, 2020 @ 8:59 am
Well…i’m glad “D.B. Cooper” is not the album opener because the track sounds like an accident.
No complaints about the other nine tracks.
Overall Glad You Made It will not make it on my album playlist.
What a busy day: Joshua Ray Walker, Margo Price, Brett Eldredge, Ray Wylie Hubbard, a new Jimmie Allen EP & a couple of new singles/tracks.
July 10, 2020 @ 9:08 am
Oh my…will not make it “on” my album playlist & “a” couple of new singles/tracks.
I blame the new Brett Eldredge album!
July 10, 2020 @ 9:38 am
Those comments sound a bit mean spirited,
I’m sure you did not intend for them to.
Best of luck Joshua!
July 10, 2020 @ 10:08 am
New gillian welch/dave rawlings release as well. Stacked release day.
July 10, 2020 @ 4:28 pm
Thanks for the great news.
July 10, 2020 @ 6:03 pm
Looks like THEY finally got their name right.
July 11, 2020 @ 3:11 pm
Well, here is how I understand that works: when Gillian sings melody and David sings harmony, they are called “Gillian Welch.” When it’s the other way around, they call themselves “Dave Rawlings Machine” or “David Rawlings.” Since on this album there are instances of both, they are called “Gillian Welch & David Rawlings.” Iron logic.
July 10, 2020 @ 10:01 am
JRW is an instant add for me. He’s a real storyteller, he’s country AF, and he likes to let it rip every now and then!
July 10, 2020 @ 10:29 am
Check out his other band, Ottoman Turks. They really blow the doors off.
July 10, 2020 @ 4:01 pm
Matt, this is off the topic but you should check out Esther Rose if you haven’t already.
July 11, 2020 @ 7:23 am
Terrific, thanks, Euro.
July 10, 2020 @ 10:34 am
JRW’s Wish You Were Here was right up there at the top of my favorite albums list last year so my expectations were sky-high for the sophomore album.
I’m still digesting it so my opinions will likely change over the coming days and weeks but, on first listen, it’s sounds and feels like a more idiosyncratic album than the first. JRW takes more risks this time around – with the vocals, the songwriting, the compositions, and the production too. Some of those risks pay off better than others but, so far, I’m digging it overall.
JRW is obviously a real talented dude, with great songwriting and compositional intuition. I love his yodeling vocals too. Consider me a fan.
July 10, 2020 @ 10:50 am
JRW was the best non-Amanda Shires National opening act I saw last year (If you’re wondering, he opened for American Aquarium & she was the first act in a Bluegrass Underground taping session that also included Glen Hansard & Josh Ritter).
His first album is wonderful. And now that I’ve seen the reviews on this one, I will be purchasing it as well— and probably Ottoman Turks too.
July 10, 2020 @ 11:21 am
One of my customers asked me if I heard of this guy this morning and I said “no.” Then saw the review on SCM. When I went to stream it, I saw the album art for the last album and remembered Trig reviewed it too.
It didn’t keep my attention and made me seek out old Aaron Tippin albums. I might go back to it at a later date.
July 10, 2020 @ 3:18 pm
Love JRW. As of now, I prefer his debut. The songs demanded my attention a little more. But I’ll give the new one a few more listens. Either way this dude is legit
July 11, 2020 @ 4:47 am
I know you shouldn’t judge an album by its cover, but holy crap that’s cringe worthy
July 11, 2020 @ 6:11 am
Agree. But not nearly as bad as these…
July 13, 2020 @ 5:58 am
OMG! i actually have 3 of those records. And Millie Jackson’s is great!
July 11, 2020 @ 8:35 am
From a *non-professional* observer-
Damn! I like it.
July 11, 2020 @ 9:24 am
As always, Thanks Trigger for the heads up…have never heard JRW and will be digging into the CD this weekend!
David Allan Covid-19
July 11, 2020 @ 4:04 pm
In awe of the size of this lad. Absolute unit.