William Walter & Co.: Drums on the Steering Wheel Music
The brand of music that transcends "good" and earns the title of "original" (in a flattering context), is usually music that is a suitable mix of genres. Aiming for this blend is quite a feat, and falling short is not uncommon. However, when a band hits their mark, the experience is that much more enjoyable. William Walter & Co. attempts this task and eases their way into the driver's seat of a fine jazz, rock, and bluegrass combination; and they take us with them.
The Story so Far begins with the quintessential first track, a position that can make or break a listener's interest. The hooker, "Concertina", makes it. With a catchy, but not sugary tune, and resonating lyrics ("I was busy paving this road to hell / with the sound, the feel / the touch, the smell"), the opener proves to get stuck in your head. This will probably improve your day in more ways than one. Walter succeeds in drawing the listener along with an impressive mix of guitars and bass, showcasing his ranging, yet consistent vocals throughout The Story so Far.
The true test for any kind of band has got to be the execution of the love song. Failing at this has the authority to blacklist you for a long time, or at least until females of the music loving persuasion forgive you. Walter's "Happy Times" is hopeful and affectionate, impressively using the phrase "adjust your halo" in a practical, not tacky, way. Following with the equally adoring Without My Clothes, Walter knows they have passed the love song test, and can boldly sing, "The element of chance has a risk that every lover knows / but I'm standing outside / I'll be freezing here without my clothes," without negatively shocking their audience.
Coming out of two sentimental pieces, William Walter puts the edge back in his voice and tackles "We All Want", a song showing his quick vocal diversity. If the last two songs mellowed you out, this one will pick you up and dance you around the room. Paired with "Border Crosser" and "Broken Windows" The Story so Far has already hooked fans of the Black Crowes and, dare I say, Dave Matthews. If you respond more to the sweet and slow side of music, "When I Leave for California", "Mischa", "Alright" and the aforementioned "Happy Times" will promisingly draw you into constant repeat mode. "When I Leave for California" shows the band's taste for simplicity in its soothing and genuine mix of serenading guitar and sad lyric.
The only negatives of The Story so Far would be slight, if any at all. A few of Walter's songs promote no real outstanding feature, lagging behind the rest of an outstanding album. Neither "Alright" nor "Consider the Price" prove to be terribly interesting, despite their well-written lyrics, and end without the hook the rest of the songs promise. Pairing a whispering voice and a quiet guitar "Hey" is a little bit too long to be constantly and completely so soft, and the length, not content, may be one of the only other reduced points to this album.
The Story so Far ends as suitably as it begins, with the religiously themed and thought-provoking "Bottom Root" and the instrumental "Angel Dust". "Bottom Root" is not as musically unique, but this fact draws appropriate attention to the songs lyrics. The short and to the point "Angel Dust", at the very end of the album, finishes it off fittingly, letting the listener know what the band is all about. Their music.
The music introduced by William Walter & Co. is so first-rate you may, at first, glaze over the lyrics, a trick some bands use to hide their lack of a literary edge. However, Walter William plays both games rather well, serving both musical and lyrical pay-offs. Dispatch, Sister Hazel, Blues Traveler, and the occasional John Mellencamp fans should pick up The Story so Far immediately, because you've been missing out. Bottom line: William Walter & Co. merges everything-will-probably-be-alright music, with no-maybe-it-won't lyrics. Wholesome, drums-on-the-steering-wheel-music. Thank God.