T.W. Walsh

Blue Laws

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On his sophomore release -- and his first for Truckstop -- T.W. Walsh explores much of the same lyrical and musical territory he did on his acclaimed (but not by this site) debut, How We Spend Our Days. But Walsh has more than just a rehash on Blue Laws. Here he expands his musical palette to include organ, slide guitar, bass, piano, and even drums: Most of these are played by Walsh himself, but he does get some help on the slide from Frank Padallero of the Scud Mountain Boys. Given Truckstop's penchant for issuing records by brooding, smart, vulnerable songwriters and sparse yet highly textured music, it's no wonder the label took a chance on Walsh. There are influences galore here, from Dinosaur Jr. to the Dutch Harbour gang, Palace, Built to Spill, and Smog, to name a few. But lyrically Walsh is his own man. He opens album with the words "I wish everyone would retire/Or at least go in late," from "Kudos for the Player." His confessional vulnerability is out front: "Every once in a while/I might seem a little bit worried/I might seem a little bit strange/But its only part of the game." Exposed for all its slacker tenderness and raw, bleeding fear, his heart carries these songs. When he sings "I want the fire without the friction/A story not a date," all bets are off and anything can happen in this codeine-paced world of sound and inaction. But songs come from here as well, this place where sitting in a chair playing the guitar is a world unto itself, and the song is what reaches out, not the singer who is so self-conscious singing it that if he thought about it, he might back out. Blue Laws is all about reversals and embarrassments, directly stated ambivalence about having to speak at all -- which is what makes Walsh so compelling a songwriter. He has no choice and it feels like that. His reluctance and wonder at what comes out of his mouth: Does he believe it? The answer to that lies in the Buddhist inspired "Old Fashioned Way of Speaking." Walsh is a poet who uses musical instruments to create offerings, settings for his muse to manipulate the way she or he pleases. Sure, there are the hints of the old alienated college rock of yore, but listen to what the man sings and how; there's the difference. Blue Laws is a striking, slowly hypnotic, and very beautiful record.

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