In his latest album, titled Welcome to the Edge Times, Jon Patrick Walker gets back to basics and explores his depth as a lyricist in a way that he never has before, and to describe the results of his efforts as quite sterling would be an understatement to say the least. In songs like the title track, the light rocker “Angelina of the Sky,” exotic swing tune “Like a Rose” and supple “Blues For My Baby,” we get to see a vulnerable side of Walker that he had only slightly exposed to us prior to now, and alongside the boldly crafted instrumentation that we encounter throughout this tracklist, these songs serve as some of the best he’s ever recorded.
“The Crystal Palace Park,” single “Luv U Girl” and haunting “We Won the War” are particularly subtle on the instrumental side, but the harmonies they contain are anything but muted. There’s a Dylan-esque energy to a lot of the material here, but I wouldn’t go as far as to suggest that Welcome to the Edge Times is an homage to classic American singer/songwriter fodder. If anything, there’s a tip of the cap to the influences that paved the way for Walker in the arranging of this material, and everything else is the product of his own experimental hybridity.
I really love the fluidity to this tracklist; right out of the gate in the title track, we’re welcomed into the album with a warm tonality that remains a consistent presence from the moment we get started to the second that everything disappears into darkness with “Blues for My Baby.” Whether it’s the moaning distortion of “(Meet Me at the) Delaware Water Gap” or the old time sway of “The Mystical Ballad of Gregory Jim,” the music never sounds artificial or, worse yet, augmented by some sort of external technology that never had any place in folk music to begin with.
This stripped-down master mix that Jon Patrick Walker decided to go with in Welcome to the Edge Times might not have worked as well for his contemporaries (the oft-elaborate Darren Jessee comes to mind), but in the case of songs like the bonus track “Happy Xmas (in the Edge Times),” “Whatchoo Gonna Do” and “The Crystal Palace Park,” it complements the natural grit in the music more than any ultra-refined production style would have. These compositions were meant to be heard without frills, and their straightforward nature is a testament to how adept an artist their creator truly is.
Fierce, confessional and often more urgent in tone than it is relaxed, Welcome to the Edge Times is a darkly addictive LP from a singer/songwriter channeling as much of yesterday’s iconic melodicism as he is a modern poetic style that’s starting to become his and his alone. Jon Patrick Walker doesn’t change the narrative for the contemporary folk movement in this latest album, but what he does do is arguably just as moving and significant. This is as personal a look as he’s given up to date, and for what it lacks in commercialized fluff it more than makes up for in unadulterated, purely organic emotionality.