All-Night Ghost Town
Lost Highway Australia / Universal
Comes a time in Sydney – somewhere near the middle of a starlit winter’s night – when the streets empty of people and the shopfronts fall to darkness and an implacable mist of vanishing fineness gathers round the streetlights. At such a time, from Enmore to Enfield, there’s nary a soul to be found abroad save for the lone singer-songwriter caught halfway between stage and sleep and beating a path homeward, guitar in hand, with nothing but the restive spirits of the city for company.
And there’s a fair chance that, at least once in the past three decades, the observant Sydney-sider has pared back their curtains and gazed out on a silent street after closing time one night in June and caught sight of tireless alt. country troubadour Jason Walker making just such a solitary journey home, carrying with him a guitar bearing all the hallmarks of a master craftsman’s cherished tool: lacquered face made piebald with wear, frets worried concave, and strings tempered and grown dark with constant playing.
With masterful Lost Highway Australia debut All-Night Ghost Town, Walker draws together the thread-ends of so many years of experience: years of lessons learned the hard way though easily forgotten, years of love won and lost and stolen. Years illuminated always by the unwavering light of song.
Produced by alt. country luminary and multiple Golden Guitar-winning songsmith Shane Nicholson, All-Night Ghost Town is an album nurtured and grown and brought to seed through the hardest years of life’s opening and middle passages – an album reaching back through time and out across the Tasman to the far-off shores of New Zealand, the site of Walker’s raising.
“All-Night Ghost Town is the work of thirty-plus years in the record industry,” Walker says. “The characters are real to me. I’ve seen them at a thousand gigs, in a million different positions – sometimes face-down.”
Joining Walker in the studio are some of Australian’s finest players: the legendary Jeff McCormack (Catherine Britt), Steve Fielding, Michael Carpenter, along with peerless guest vocalists in the wonderful Katie Brianna and Jules Crighton.
A guitar pick is anything but a blunt implement in the storied Walker’s hands, and many is the pub in which he has stilled all movement and silenced the beery chatter of the bar with his singular artistry.
A veteran guitarist and steel guitar player, Walker arrived on Australian shores on the cusp of his Eighteenth birthday and has spent the ensuing decades ensconced in Sydney’s immortal live and recording scenes. He’s occupied a privileged position at the heart of acts from Showpony and Golden Rough to Youth Group and the Older Guys (with whom Walker opened for Junior Brown across two of the US master’s Australian tours).
“My crime is that I wear all these hats: as writer, steel guitarist, lead player, songwriter,” Walker says.
It’d be a hard judge that would hang him for it.
Like the familiar, scalding kiss of molten candlewax spilled upon a careless hand, All-Night Ghost Town is at once immediate and timeless, an album speaking to a profound wellspring of songwriting talent – and proof-positive that it’s possible to strum a heartworn chord or two with burned fingers.
The world-weary “Poison” (featuring Katie Brianna) is a tune lifted from Walker’s enviable vault – a song penned with Johnny Cash in mind circa the bittersweet parting that was the Man in Black’s final American Recordings phase. A lament from the busted side of Bakersfield, it’s a master class in country guitars and very country resignation, veined with bluest steel guitar and carried by the singularly brokedown and beat cadence of Walker’s vocal.
There are shades of late great Texan troubadour Guy Clark in heartworn plaint “Love Is A Lie”, while “Tears” (with Jules Crighton) calls to mind the incomparable Townes Van Zandt, and tracks like “Borrowed Tunes” – a gauzy, sun-dappled missive from the dusty quarters of an unfamiliar town – find Walker jostling shoulder to shoulder with inimitable peers from Justin Townes Earle to Ryan Adams to strange country pater familias Clarence White.
Whisked drums and chiming keys and Walker’s own heartworn croon carry the spell throughout.
Father, lover, musician, writer, Walker has lived life from the bottom up. All-Night Ghost Town is a chronicle writ on the dark side of a lonesome city street: new songs and old songs alike, it’s an album ever in the thrall of love in its many guises, both cruel and kind. Ambivalence is Walker’s truest guide, irrepressible musicality his guiding light.
All-Night Ghost Town is out August 12 on Lost Highway Australia / Universal Music.