Travels in the Dustland

The Walkabouts

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Travels in the Dustland Review

by Chris Nickson

One reason to be cheerful is that the Walkabouts are still going after more than a quarter of a century. Another is that they can put out an album as good as this when they've worked so long together. For more than a decade, their music has taken on a more cinematic sweep, and that seems to find its apex in this journey through a mythical American Southwest. It's an epic ambition, and one that they pull of magnificently, in large part because they have such excellent material -- and it's all very definitely Walkabouts in its sound -- with some glorious lyrics from Chris Eckman, one of the most underrated U.S. songwriters, a man who can pack a short story into some image-laden lyrics. But the chemistry of the band plays no small part, either, as well as the attention to detail, as with the strings and trumpet that sparsely populate "The Dustlands," for instance, adding to the song's bleakness, or the lonely double bass at the beginning of "Horizon Fade." It's an onscreen journey in the head, one that's as much about legend as physical travel, and makes a perfect companion for the sound they've been developing for so long. One of the strangest things in life is how this band has never managed to be bigger, given the consistent quality of their releases and their striving to always push further into their art. It's been a while since their last release -- let's hope that the wait until the next one isn't as long.

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