Walter Holland 2020
Californian aficionado of Albion’s musical heritage delves into traditional fare once more and finds glory in the soil of history.
It would be easy to say that “Storyteller: Part II” picks up where predecessor left off if these two albums didn’t complement one another so immaculately – or, rather, the second record, released only digitally, wasn’t such a perfect reflection of the first. On the surface, there’s more of the same material, concept-wise – folk ballads and choice covers, all served by Walter Holland’s voice and guitars and Steve Leonard’s ivories – but now they come from ancient times and dig deeper into the listener’s subconscious emotionality. Although the clue to the perennials’ enigmatic slant may lie in the crystalline “The Three Ravens” – an instrumental piece on 2019’s offering and a vocal-driven performance here – cerebral approach can ruin their enchantment.
Which is why, perhaps, the image-heavy finale “The Bewlay Brothers” by David Bowie won’t work the magic on par Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” that fits Holland’s concept on many a level, while “Emmanuel” – celestially elevated on Jon Camp’s fluid bass – gets delicately unshackled from Yuletide. Yes, seasonal idyll doesn’t belong on the album whose beginning is the reading of Ralph McTell’s “Peppers And Tomatoes” where acoustic six strings and piano wrap this paean to non-belonging in nervousness, and Walter’s worn-velvet vocals on the otherwise romantic “Black Is The Colour” pitch further funereal gloom into the melodic flow. Still, the a cappella quasi-choir takes “Shenandoah” on a timeless, electrically tinctured adventure, and “The Braes o’ Balquhidder” feels warm, albeit deceptively even in delivery.
Yet it’s “Hame, Hame, Hame” that’s the most spiritual, otherworldly hymn on display, with synthesizer-painted background panorama and slow, solemn drumming; all the more unexpected, then, is the trance-inducing, ethereal epic “Follow The Drinking Gourd” which has been given an electronic effervescence. An attempt to link old times to the future? If so, Walter Holland’s next move might be totally different and just as captivating.