by Jason Crouse
2017 seems to have been the year that folk music became my brand, and this new release from fellow NC native Charles Walker just furthers that claim. He is no newcomer to creating and performing music, having spent many of his teenage years writing and performing under different titles across various projects, but Walker’s debut EP Whole Again under this new project sets this endeavor apart with a new sound all its own.
As an exploration into the direction of folk and self-described “alt-country” music, twangy plucked strings and the occasional bowed string resonate throughout the record. These elements remind listeners of Walker’s North Carolina roots while also allowing him to showcase his talent in both composition and musicality. The voices of a myriad of instruments and vocalists blend together with incredible amounts of grace and nuance, and the harmonies are complex yet come together effortlessly. Having spent the last month and a half listening to Rocket by (Sandy) Alex G on repeat, I couldn’t help but draw comparisons between the two as I listened to Whole Again. The track ‘Sober I Love You’ felt like the strongest connection between the two albums, and was actually confirmed to be influenced by G’s tune, ‘Bobby.’
Though this record makes it evident that he can create a solid folk tune, it also showcases Walker’s versatility and ability to experiment with elements that are unexpected in this genre. A surprising and interesting moment in Whole Again was the beginning of ‘Detox,’ where auto-tuned a cappella voices melt together as if T-Pain were a member of Pentatonix before a guitar accompaniment is added, which then transitions into an angsty southern sadboi’s lament. The levels of emotion in this particular track brought me back to Julien Baker’s Turn Out the Lights, another 2017 release with a clear influence. Much like Baker’s album, this record expresses a deep, heavily personal self-analysis and feels like it would be most enjoyed live in a tiny intimate venue like a house show or coffee shop.
Despite noticeable influences from other releases of the year, Whole Again manages to create a sound all its own and carve out a space allowing it to stand out as a striking and notable record that truly deserves a listen. Keep an eye out for what Charles Walker will accomplish in the future and be sure to watch for tour dates near you, because his musical talent extends far beyond just his recorded music.