Colter Wall is what you might call a cowboy’s cowboy. He doesn’t just write and sing songs about riding the prairie. He actually rides across the god damn plains.
And when you actually listen to him singing his camp fire and cow puncher songs, you could be fooled he is a wise old cowboy in his 50’s. In fact, he is a prairie-wise cowboy aged only 28. He just has that warm and wonderful baritone voice that seems to have aged prematurely.
The Saskatchewan singer-songwriter has earned a fast-growing reputation as a Canadian troubadour up there with the likes of Gordon Lightfoot, Ian Tyson and Fred Eaglesmith. And this has been further enhanced by the release of his fourth studio album Little Songs which, even more than his previous works, very much reflects the outdoor life of the Canadian west
Wall cut the album with his touring band at the Yellowdog Studios in Wimberly, Texas. Eight of the ten songs are Wall originals, the remaining two being the popular standards “The Coyote & The Cowboy” and “Evangelina.”
Little Songs kicks off with a delightful ¾ time ballad “Prairie Evening/Sagebrush Waltz.” It is all about music, drinking and dancing to Merle Haggard on a prairie dance hall Saturday night:
I said, "I'll dance if you'll have me
God knows I'll be glad to have you
We could burn up this old native prairie
'Til there's sage on the soles of our shoes"
And he stays on a prairie hardwood floor with the gently fiddle-introed “Honky Tonk Nighthawk.”
I’m congregating at the places
Where the folks dress in boots and hats
Cause I’m a honky tonk nighthawk
Trottin’ on the hardwood floor
The electric-funky title track takes us out of the honky tonk and onto the prairie where Wall uses music to combat the loneliness of the vast outback:
You might not see a soul for days
On them high and lonesome plains
You've got to fill the big empty
With little songs
And on "For a Long While" - one of the four singles released prior to the album - Wall uses an infectious melody to paint a soothing picture of life far beyond the horizon:
The more you roam
You long for home
With every passing mile
I guess that's how it's always been
Or at least for a long while
As might be expected, the first of the two covers - Ian Tyson's appealing "The Coyote & The Cowboy" - also tells a cow puncher's tale. It is nicely enhanced by the baritone guitar of multi-instrumentalist and co-producer Patrick Lyons. However, Hoyt Axton's "Evangelina," the other cover, takes us way down south to a lost love in old Mexico. Once again, Lyons nicely intrudes, this time with the very appropriate steel guitar.
But we are back in the heart of the prairie for the closing track, which, fittingly, is a goodbye song. "The Last Loving Words" sees Wall at his lyrical and musical best. He strings together a succession of clever rhyming couplets, aided and abetted by his acoustic guitar and Jake Groves' harmonica:
The trails have been all but paved over
So too has the time of the drover
But cowmen remember
That night in September
One can only hope this delightful cowboy music is never paved over.
Editor Crossroads - Americana Music Appreciation