First Listen: New Seth Walker Song, "Remember Me," Has Surprising Subtext
Known for the myriad of styles heard in his music, a mesh of Americana, blues, and rock, Seth Walker’s forthcoming album, I Hope I Know ( out May 20 via Royal Potato Family), scratches a particular nostalgic itch. It brings with it the feeling of a hot and sticky summer night in the south, a bar full of only people who are in the know, no invitations given, just word of mouth and the ability to suss out who is worth listening to.
It’s a record that contains a fair amount of toil and trouble as Walker grapples with the future and the past. It’s his eleventh studio album and his third collaboration with producer Jano Rix, drummer/keyboardist for The Wood Brothers. He also tapped Oliver Wood, Gary Nicholson, and Jarrod Dickenson as co-writers. But rather than a collection of fragments that don’t add up, it feels like a complete thought.
While there is an innumerable amount of descriptions of Walker as a Southern Troubadour, I would argue that he is more suited to the description of Minstrel. Like Troubadours and Bards, Minstrels were part of a rich oral tradition that was important to medieval culture. Troubadours were poets who wrote about love and chivalry, while Bards were storytellers who told tales of heroic deeds. Minstrels were both poets and musicians, and their songs were often about love and heroic deeds. However, unlike Troubadours and Bards, Minstrels did not usually perform for nobility; they were more likely to be found in taverns and town squares, entertaining the common folk. While Troubadours and Bards were often associated with the upper classes, Minstrels were more likely to be seen as representatives of the common people. This made them popular figures in medieval society, and their songs often reflect the concerns and values of the people they represented.
The Minstrel is a wandering musician, often penniless and unknown. But their music has the power to transport listeners to other times and places. It can make the heart ache with longing or fill it with joy. It can stir up old memories or create new ones.
Of course, the word has a shameful past. As such, it has been mostly thrown in the garbage bin, forever to reckon with its history.
To illustrate my point, listen to Walker’s latest single, “Remember Me,” out tomorrow. Instead of imagining him singing in the streets, guitar in hand, bellowing at the sky, in my mind, it’s the perfect score for the aftermath of a murder montage in a southern gothic romantic mystery. The lyrics almost sound threatening, like they were written by the ex who loves you dearly, but plans to kill you anyway. Not the story of a public or heroic figure, but that of the forgotten small town with its own complex set of societal rules for the people whose roots there are a dozen generations deep.
Or maybe I’m overthinking it, and he’s just another traveling troubadour coming to your town soon.
Be sure to tune into Finally Friday on March 13th at 12 PM CST to catch Seth Walker playing songs from the new album. You can listen via WMOT 89.5, stream it via WMOT.org, or from the WMOT App.