Walter Martin already has a steadily-growing reputation as a talented singer-songwriter who excels in attention-to-detail, while managing to remain likeable at the same time. ‘My Kinda Music’ follows up his 2016 release ‘Arts & Leisure’, and while that album is enjoyable in a quintessential Walt-way, this new record puts it to shame. Let’s take a look…
‘Arts & Leisure’ was a mighty fine album, and while very easy to listen to, it definitely plodded along in an almost-one-note mood – at least when compared to ‘My Kinda Music’. Stylistically, it feels as though Walter Martin has a lot more freedom this time around, and while it’s difficult to know whether or not that is actually true, the feeling is definitely there, and that’s as good as. While primarily folk, this album is otherwise tricky to label, as Walter goes all-out with his sounds and influences. He shuffles from nursery rhymes to sombre folk balladry to reggae to Kinks-esque classic rock to calypso to light jazz/blues to afrobeat to honky tonk, then back again to the nursery rhymes, mostly all done with a diggable sense of humour.
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Lyrically, not too much has changed from previous projects, but that isn’t a bad thing as Walter always has a story to tell, or at least some quirky prose. ‘Hey Matt’, which is an incredibly adorable song, sees Walter phone Matt Berninger of The National, asking him for singing advice, Berninger complies and the results are cheesy, but in the best way possible, especially when Walter admits Randy Newman was his first choice. ‘Family Tree’ does what it says on the tin, as Walter goes into a bit of detail about a bunch of his relatives, all done over a very pretty, soft, folk guitar piece. ‘The Wishing Well’ sets the tone, as Walter uses his wish for a bass guitar, and drums and the like, and ‘The Everglades’ is about the pesky dangers of said wetlands.
The ditching of general, “normal” singer-songwriter type compositions was a very pleasant surprise for this album. A few songs still rest on that old way of thinking, like ‘Trip on a Ship’ with Laura Gibson, and at the same time, not every new idea is completely easy to swallow, like ‘Marco Polo’, which sounds like an outtake from ‘Graceland’ that Paul Simon would’ve looked back at saying “what was I thinking?”, and that’s saying something, because ‘That Was Your Mother’ was on that album.
But yes, ‘My Kinda Music’ is one hell of a grab bag. It has a fitting title, with Walter openly exploring every fathomable, rootsy music genre, and with humorous results that’ll have the listener laughing with him, rather than at him. If you’re feeling a bit more generous than usual, you could compare it to the variety that The Beatles’ ‘White Album’ holds, with similar successful results. What a fun album!