Talkin' New York, Vol. 11 - Wynn Walent & The Folks

Since I’ve started this music blog a few days over a year ago I’ve heard a lot of artists that I consider among New York’s finest singer-songwriters. A lot of my favorite songs of 2007 were written by these folks. One of those songs, “A Question Of Water”, is by a recent discovery of mine - Wynn Walent. I haven’t been this excited about the music of a newly discovered local artist in a few months. That’s probably my fault - I’m not getting out as much lately. Working and sleeping. Writing and reading - The Road (for me) and To Kill A Mockingbird (again, and passing some knowledge on to kids who’ll likely claim it as their favorite in about 3 weeks). Drinking less sugar. Not grocery shopping at the 7-11. Fitter, happier, more productive. Growing up and settling in.

Maybe that’s why the songs on Walent’s new EP, Upon Leaving, are hitting me so hard. These are the songs of a young man living squarely in the present, but with the past close behind. But things are better now. It’s a record that manages to be painfully personal and endlessly universal at the same time. Modern and timeless. Ragged and beautiful. Songs that could score To Kill A Mockingbird (with its innocence in a time of struggle) as easily as The Road (with its innocence in a time of struggle).

To me, The Band is an obvious reference point for Walent’s music (he even looks like he could sneak into the cover of their second album and fit right in, amirite?). Like The Band, to hear Walent play his songs is to recall the long history of American music. I caught Walent a few weeks ago leading off a bill with 2 of my other favorite local artists - Matt Singer and Paul Basile. All 3 shared the stage at various points in the evening during each other’s sets. They sounded as if they were made for one another - strumming, picking, harmonizing, passing instruments, smiling, playing each other’s songs. Maybe even laying the seeds for a future collaboration. Their 3-way rendition of “Long Black Veil” to close the evening cemented the connection.

Walent usually plays with a band called The Folks though, and these folks accompany him on the new CD, providing banjo, mandolin, pedal steel, percussion, and backing vocals to his songs. There are 6 songs, and I bet each has been my favorite at some point since I first heard it . “A Question Of Water” is the one I go back to most - the haunting voice and lyrics struck me the first time I heard them, and immediately it became a song I know I'll go to for years to come. “Olivia, the Dear”, with its weepy pedal steel and shuffle beat, is probably the most immediate of the songs, and “On Being Young” the most beautiful. All are important, and if you come to this blog to discover music (um…why else would you?) then check Wynn Walent out. Guaranteed.

MP3 :: Olivia the Dear
MP3 :: A Question of Water
(from Upon Leaving. Buy here)

And I bet you didn’t know that Wynn Walent & The Folks have a full length album available as well. It’s from 2006 and is every bit as excellent as the new EP. Listen.

MP3 :: Where Are You Now
MP3 :: Paramedic
(from Wynn Walent. Buy here)

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