By Martine Ehrenclou
Texas-based Zack Walther Band releases The Westerner out October 25th, a roots-rock album with shades of soul and Americana, led by one helluva singer, Zack Walther. The Westerner is a new direction for Walther and the band and it features seven original tracks and one cover, and three from a previously released EP. Having come from the Country and Americana genres, Zack Walther has chosen, for the most part, a new direction for this album that seems to bring out the best in the band, and specifically Zack Walther.
According to Zack, The Westerner is “the record my fans always wanted me to make.” He adds, “I wanted this path to be different – I needed to go in a different direction and this record goes so beyond where I’ve been been.”
And that new direction serves Zack and the band well, especially on the roots-rock and soul songs where Zack shines as a vocalist, where the band sits tight in the groove. Listening to “DFW,” “ What Kind Of Man,” “Casualty,” “Payin’ For It Now,” and a whopping cover of “Hold On I’m Coming,” you’d be right to say that this band is a breath of fresh air and they’re going places. With A+ vocals that aren’t just technically good, but soulful, emotive and at times sultry, Zack Walther’s instincts to move the band into roots-rock and soul territory are sound.
“DFW” is a barn burner of an album opener, a party tune. The band includes Zack Walther on lead vocals and guitar, Matthew Briggs on drums and bass, Mike Atkins on organ and keys, and Austin-based guitarist David Grissom (Joe Ely, John Mellencamp) guesting on four tracks. The track is fun, it rocks and the groove is catchy. Even with lines like “Looking like a girl that never says never” and “Baby tonight I’m down for whatever,” there’s more going on than just a possible one night stand and a bar scene. There’s great groove, tasteful guitar work with smokin’ string bends, and fine drumming by Briggs. Zack’s voice is a force, full of texture and tone.
“What Kind of Man” is another standout on the record, with Zack and the band hitting all cylinders. It’s a soulful, bluesy slow rocker sung by a vocalist who digs deep and has the vocal chops to deliver the message of heartbreaking regret. Backing singers underpin the melody throughout much of the song, adding to the intensity of the tune. Unhurried guitar riffs with guitar effects, lend to the moodiness, grounded by the crack of powerful drums.
Zack Walther and the band have hit on something with their new direction–an emphasis on soulful, interesting tunes that feature Zack’s A+ vocals.
“Payin’ For It Now” opens with ethereal backing singers, harmonious, even lyrical, almost like a church choir. The effect is beautiful. The tune then takes off into roots-rock territory, the track focused on concepts of struggle and learning the hard way. Zack digs deep and glides into his head voice with ease—this guy has some kind of vocal range. This tune highlights the benefits and drawbacks of being a big fish in a small pond, and looking back with regret over the people trampled along the way. Written with insight and accountability, Zack conveys authentic angst.
“Hold On I’m Coming” by Isaac Hayes and David Porter, made popular by Sam and Dave, is another standout. Horns ride the melody and a short but sweet harp riff enters the mix. Zack sure sounds like he’s in his element here, as his voice and phrasing couldn’t be better. The backing singers compliment him on the chorus. Great cover.
The Westerner offers some of the band’s previous work, which should please most of their existing fans. It is their promising and refreshing new direction, that grabbed my attention. I look forward to more from this intensely talented band.
Zack Walther Band Online