Jason Walker – Stranger to Someone

Jason Walker
Stranger to Someone

When Ryan Adams released his second solo album last year, many, including myself, were puzzled by his decision to take on 70s rock instead of further mining the hybrid zones inhabited by ghosts of Dylan and Richards, as he’d done on 2000’s Heartbreaker. Maybe we should have looked around a little more, for if we had, we’d have discovered Jason Walker out there on the edges, pushing harder, moving quicker than Adams, who has now become a mainstream media darling.
Walker has long been associated with the Sydney music scene, singing with numerous bands and, most recently, assisting on Youth Group’s Urban&Eastern, one of the best albums of 2001. Stranger to Someone is his first solo album, but his maturity and songwriting finesse shine through. The title track opens up with a rebel’s yell, a great sing-along chorus (“There’s nothing wrong with me…”), and guitar work the Stones would be proud off. Later on, “Other Side of the Bar” has a looser flavour, relaxed, almost a Steve Earle offcast. You can tell Walker’s done his homework, and Graham Griffith’s pedal steel adds an authentic sense of melancholy.
But it’s on the cover versions featured here that you can hear Walker’s soul stretching out. He makes Tom Waites’ “Up Shit Creek Again” his own, all hungover loss and deadbeat row self pity. Elsewhere there’s Springsteen, Gram Parsons, and Danny O’Keefe tunes, and Jason’s cover of Mark Olson’s “I’m Still Dreaming (Now I’m Yours)” is a rock-a-bye baby perfect-for-the-porch number.
“Welcome to my World,” another Walker composition, finishes off this country-fried, cosmic rock album, and it’s a fitting conclusion, just him and his acoustic guitar. What we’re given over 13 tracks is music that’s made to last, finely honed, carefully constructed, and eeked out over years of playing two-bit bars in the back of beyond. Walker may not yet have the publicity whores of Universal hawking his ass, but he is well and truly equal to the calibre of Ryan Adams, Jeff Tweedy, and other Americana outlaws. Stranger to Someone has bitterness and balls, and that’s what great music is made of.