Butch Walker has been toiling away somewhere just outside the spotlight of rock & roll for the better part of two decades, eventually carving out a curious niche for himself. Opportunities came and went beginning with SouthGang, a metal band in the time of grunge, then running through the Marvelous 3, whose 1999 hit "Freak of the Week" showed Walker had a commercial ear. He traded upon that skill, working behind the scenes as a collaborative songwriter as he cranked out his own records, establishing enough connections to actually get him placed on the 2008 reality show competition Rock Star: Supernova, all of which didn't do much in terms of getting him another hit of his own. Walker somewhat retreated from the radio game in 2010 when he formed the Americana-ish band the Black Widows, but 2014's Afraid of Ghosts takes this direction even further. Leaving behind the Black Widows but gaining a conspirator in Ryan Adams, Walker essentially designs Afraid of Ghosts as an homage to its producer. Adams set up shop in his PAX AM studios and directed Walker through a sleepy, sepia-toned collection of tastefully rustic ruminations. It sounds more like an old-fashioned Adams record, one that alternately recalls Heartbreaker and Love Is Hell, than 2014's unapologetically glossy Ryan Adams and, pro that he is, Walker's craft is sturdy too; there are strong bones underneath the moody surface, songs that emphasize his skill at construction more than melody. As it somewhat deemphasizes Walker's way with big hooks -- the very thing that made him an in-demand session man -- Afraid of Ghosts isn't as immediate as some of his other records, but it will suit the needs of anybody craving a record that sounds like Ryan Adams used to make them back in the day.
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AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine