Butch Walker

Stay Gold

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AllMusic Review by Mark Deming

Butch Walker is a guy who wants it both ways -- he wants to write personal songs full of telling details and anecdotes, but he also wants them to sound like anthems that will fill up arenas and burst out of the radio. Walker has done more than his share of creative shape-shifting since he launched his solo career in 2004, and on 2016's Stay Gold, he sounds like this year's goal is to be Bruce Springsteen, with Keith Richards playing guitar and lending occasional melodic advice. Walker's grand scale heartland rock, seasoned with the swagger of an overgrown street kid, sounds pretty convincing on Stay Gold, though the snarky guy looking for cheap weed and good times on the title cut doesn't sound the same as the lovelorn dude wearing his heart on his sleeve on "Descending." Walker has enjoyed a successful side career as a producer and songwriter, and he and Ryan Adams (credited as "overall album concept co-conspirator") have made a record that's rollicking and slick at the same time, and if the details that are supposed to make numbers like "Mexican Coke" and "Record Store" come to life seem more forced than sincere, you can't deny that Walker has put plenty of sweat and elbow grease into this. Some songwriters sound as if they're talking to you heart to heart, while others seem to be reading you a story that they've been tinkering with for a few months. On Stay Gold, Walker falls into the latter camp, but if these songs lack a certain spontaneity, the craft is strong and Walker seems so eager to sound like a rock star that you just might mistake him for the real thing.

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