“Nobody wants to listen to their grandpa’s music.”
“If Colter Wall is going to find a hole through the hard ceiling that hangs above most independent roots music, becoming more steeped in the Woody Guthrie, Wilf Carter approach is probably not the brilliant path.”
–Kyle “Trigger” Coroneos, SavingCountryMusic.com
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Yeah that’s right. I’ll own it. From the beginning I’ve wondered and worried aloud about how commercially viable and artist like Colter Wall could be, even if it’s just a mere caveat to otherwise virtual universal praise for his output. But I was wrong. And so was Blake Shelton. And I’m more than happy to eat those words if this is the end result.
Now look, Colter Wall isn’t breaking any records here. And with the way the public rarely buys albums anymore, an independent artist with even a moderate following can find their way on to the album charts with a decent rollout. But to debut this high when you’re covering Marty Robbins and Stan Jones, and some of your songs are just you with a mic cued up in the middle of a boomy room, it’s quite remarkable.
Colter Wall’s latest record Western Swing & Waltzes and Other Punchy Songs released on August 28th debuted at #8 on the Billboard Country Albums chart this week, and was #1 in physical sales in country by a wide margin. Released on his own La Honda records backed by Thirty Tigers, the record sold 9,250 in albums and equivalents, including over 7,100 in pure physical sales, while songs from the album were also streamed some 2.56 million times. Western Swing & Waltzes also earned #3 on the Billboard Folk/Americana chart.
Previously, Colter Wall’s best showing on the charts was at #17 in country. But this isn’t just about numbers. Colter Wall is doing all of this with your grandpa’s music. The 25-year-old Saskatchewan native could have chosen any musical discipline to lend his one-of-a-kind voice to, which makes immediate attentive listeners of anyone within earshot. But he chose to do it with old cowboy and Western songs.
In fact over his career, Colter Wall has only become even more steeped in tradition as he eschews any hipsterish notions from his music. Western Swing & Waltzes is his most severe and dry record yet. But Colter Wall has made tired old country, Western, and cowboy songs cool again. He’s got viral videos and receives shout outs from influencers. He’s revitalized the discipline and created a fan base and appeal in listeners both young and old.
This wasn’t a side of country that was going underserved. It was a version of country music whose appeal had mostly dried up before Colter Wall appeared. Now with Colter in the lead, it feels vibrant and renewed. Old cowboy songs charting in the Top 10 on Billboard.
The Tyler Childers’s and Cody Jinks’s of the world will still probably continue to surpass Colter Wall in sales and touring. But what Colter Wall has done was arguably even harder considering the material and style he’s chosen to give himself to. To put it simply, Colter Wall is saving cowboy and Western music.