Eternally quirky and just as gripping, Jon Patrick Walker exudes cool in the roots rock -Americana thrills found in his newest release The Rented Tuxedo and Other Songs. A crooner with textures in his voice that resemble a notebook of stories and a life well-lived, Walker leaves little to no room for boredom in this nine-track, original collection. This is a start-to-finish experience. From the western opener “Auto-Tune My Love” to the Ziggy Stardust-esque “The Stars, the Moon and the Sun”, and finally to the Bob Dylan-like “Love to You”, it’s beyond obvious that Walker’s mind is brewing intimate revelations.
What makes Walker so great, besides the restlessness lingering in her voice, is the way he allows the listener to just sort of meander their way into his world. His songs have entries and exits, yes, but they also invite the listener as if he were welcoming them into his own home. In “Auto-Tune My Love”, which was nothing like I was expecting from the song title, a dreamy steel pedal drapes itself over the music bed, with only Walker’s near raspy vocals hovering. The wicked percussion, like a galloping bunch of horses, gives the song a more western motif. When he sings and repeats ‘my love’, there’s a natural melody within his timbre that loops, like it were written in cursive.
You can listen to “The Stars, The Moon, & The Sun” off of The Rented Tuxedo and Other Songs below
“The Rented Tuxedo” is dripping with character and the imagery of an almost lounge lizard, down on their luck traveler. The spooky, somber-voiced Walker sings, his voice just ever-so-slightly elevated above the snaking-acoustic guitar. What will become of this sad, but likeable character as Walker sings mysteriously, “And is this the end of it all?” The guitar and the folly of it all seems so delicious, and hotel tacky. It’s fantastic and I wanted more. Supposing one is listening to this with no other distractions, the stories and the melancholy continue, with great satisfaction.
“Blackwater Street” has a quicker tempo, and a lush soundscape and “Love My Everblue” features the cheerful arrangement of a, presumably electric sitar. At this point in the record, the listener feels the influence of Bowie, 70s rock, The Beatles, Dylan and maybe a bit of John Prine. You don’t feel like you’re in a Nashville bar, per se, but you feel like you’re experiencing the magic of songwriting coming from the historic Memphis studios.
The Rented Tuxedo & Other Songs was actually recorded in Nashville, with only the title track being recorded in Memphis at the iconic Studio. Jon Patrick Walker is at the top of his game. The album is co-produced by Roger Moutenot (Sleater-Kinney, Yo La Tengo, Paula Cole). Featured musicians include Pete Finney on pedal steel (The Monkees, Patty Loveless, Justin Townes Earle), drummer Russ Pollard, Eric Fritsch on sitar and Kirby Sybert on guitars and keys. Proving he’s a true artist that can spin several plates in the air simultaneously, Walker wrote and recorded the album while on the national Hamilton tour, where the Broadway vet played the role of King George.