A deeply personal collection - with a good dose of humor.
Pops Walker does not play the guitar. He courts it. He woos it, like a young man woos a maiden. His style is uniquely recognizable; on Milepost 5, he once again stirs and blends his reportoire of accoustic guitar seasonings, his honey-covered gravel driveway of a voice, and his ability to translate the emotions of the moment, sad, glad or silly into poetry and from there into song, to create what is possibly his most ecclectic, at least in regard to style, mix to date.
Cleary, this collection is deeply personal, and unaffected, as were his past collaborative efforts, by the stylistic choices of a musical partner; songs such as "My Back's Against The Wall," "Old and Wild" and "Should You Need Me," come from a very private place in which Walker takes the listener into his confidence and shares with them, however cryptically, emotions he has genuinly felt, and still feels. These are songs that were not just written... they were lived.
On "Marshmallow Man," and again on "Hanky Panky," he shows that silly side of himself that those familiar with his past work have come to appreciate, rife with smatterings of slightly risque double entendre and good-natured schoolboy smut.
Those readers fortunate enough to have shared a glass or two of wine with Pops will appreciate the jaunty skiffle beat of "Stoned to the Bone Again," an old favorite that deserves its place in this wide-ranging collection of Walker's emotional landscape, and a pretty damned accurate portrayal of anyone who has ever danced a tad too closely with Bacchus.
With "Universal Mundane Church of the Uninformed," Walker continues his good natured exploratory questioning of the truths and absurdities of religion, organized or otherwise, that he began on his last collection, "Cuttin' In Line at the Karmic Buffet," both the CD by that name and the song expressing that same sentiment. Obviously a deeply spiritual man, Walker never the less shows his lack of guile when it comes to tugging the nose of our commonly accepted images of the divine, while still continuing his earnest search for That Which Is Greater Than Himself.
Were there to be any criticism of this CD, it would be in regard to the order in which the songs are presented; however, Walker himself makes a point of stating, in his liner notes, that the emotional roller coaster ride on which the songs take the listener is completely intentional. The light, humorous lyric of "Universal Church" blends curiously into the earnest empathy of "Should You Need Me," which in turn takes a peculiar turn for the naughty followed up as it immediatly is by "Hanky Panky." There is a method to Walker's madness, clearly, in that he obviously wants to leave the listener somewhat spent afterwards, in need of a second listen just to be sure of what they really experienced.
Probably the sweetest touch on the entire CD is the closing number, the inimitable Stephen Foster's "Oh Susanna!" Treated to Walker's resplendent sequined leather posing-pouch of a voice, it is performed not as though bouncing in the saddle of a trotting horse as one usually envisions the number, but layed out languidly on a sultry southern porch, somewhat moss-draped, and offered up with a knowing and slightly sleepy smile. Though pushing 150 years old, at Walker's hand, the song is finally able to grow up.
It is clearly a departure from his past works. But Walker's trademark guitar trills, his signature voice and his genuine love for his music none the less show through. Since this is a truly solo effort - just Pops, his voice and his guitar - it can possibly be said that this CD best showcases what Pops Walker is really all about.