Alan Walker (of The Brilliant Mistakes) Releases 2nd Solo Album, A Little Too Late

Article Contributed by Dreamspider Pu… | Published on Friday, June 28, 2024

Alan Walker (the former frontman of NYC’s The Brilliant Mistakes) writes melodies that stick in the head and heart. His second solo album, A Little Too Late, is out June 28 on his own label, Aunt Mimi’s Records. Laced with clever lyrics and harmonies, these songs feel fresh yet familiar, with nods to some of his favorite bands (The Beatles, Squeeze, and Joe Jackson).

Walker composes on the piano, and his music creates tell-tale impressions, planting the seeds of stories for listeners. He says he is driven by the songs themselves: “Once they are in my head, I can’t get them out. I’ve loved music since I could walk, since I first heard the album Let It Be through my bedroom walls from the living room when my older brother first played it. The best moments for me with music are the original inspiration of a song, when a melody, chords, and lyrics first come together, and then bringing that idea to a band or fellow musicians to see how it evolves.”

Alan and producer Lincoln Schleifer (Levon Helm, Buddy Miller, Donald Fagen) sought to make an organic record that had the feel of a classic 70s album, in the vein of early Jackson Browne, where the songs determined the arrangements, instruments and players, and overall mood. Led by Schleifer’s indomitable production and genius chart writing, a cast of incredible musicians gathered in Lincoln’s Log Cabin basement recording studio in the Bronx. With Walker on piano and singing lead and Schleifer on bass and percussion, the core band on A Little Too Late includes Jon Herington (Steely Dan) on electric guitars, Rob Schwimmer on Hammond B3 and synthesizers, and John Morgan Kimock on drums.

Songs include The Beatle-y, harmony-laced album opener “The Morning After”; "Mama Kat"—a ballad propelled by Larry Campbell's exquisite pedal steel and acoustic guitar playing; the rootsy-pop Americana tune “Twist of Fate” with a tragi-comic tale of first attraction; and the whimsical “Town Called Misery”—with Schwimmer adding to the mood playing claviola, taisho harp, and some sounds from the kitchen sink.

“Only Son,” “Wait,” and “A Little Too Late” have a hint of bluesy harmony vocals from special guests Teresa Wiliams and Lucy Kaplansky. Alan says, “It was a real thrill to work with them both. Their enthusiasm for the songs and fun approach to recording made this a day I won't soon forget, and they came up with some beautiful parts. Their contributions on each of these three tracks were quite varied and creatively unique, but I especially love what they did on ‘Only Son,’ a very sad song that we tried very hard to not cross the line into sounding maudlin. I couldn't be happier with the result.”

“Only Son,” Alan says, “may be one of the saddest songs I’ve ever written. It’s dedicated to the mother of a friend who somehow, tragically, managed to lose her only son twice, the first time during the fall of Saigon shortly after he was born, and the second time from an untreated cancer where he was found alone on the floor of his apartment in Washington, DC. The lyrics tell the rest of the story, or at least attempt to make art out of real life.” Acclaimed cellists Myron Lutzke and Jake Charkey add to the feeling of heartbreak, leading to an intimate, spare, and melancholy track.

“Wait” is an upbeat song from Walker’s archives that springs to life in this collection, with Gary Sieger stepping in on electric guitar. Here Alan switches out to Wurlitzer electric piano, and they add the exceptionally talented Bill Holloman on tenor sax and Larry Etkin on trumpet.

The title track, “A Little Too Late,” offers a wry comment about Walker’s songwriting career, replete with its own choir. It is about a fictional relationship that seems to keep looping around to the same places. Alan remarks, “Every album that I work with Lincoln on has what we call the ‘art project,’ the song that turns out completely different from our original expectations. This arrangement takes some inspiration from a couple tracks on Stevie Wonder’s Songs in the Key of Life. Jon Herington channels the best of Richard Thompson on the guitar solo.”

“Somewhere Down the Line” is a lament filled with romantic nostalgia, its sound enhanced by Holloman and Etkin on flugelhorns and Andy Burton on Fender Rhodes. The song’s lyrics address the kinds of secrets we keep from even those closest to us: “Cuz you’ve got my heart, and I have only what is left inside… The truth is on my lips, but I can’t even get around to it. How do we know? The damage of our secret lives… The truth is fading from our lives.”

The straightforward "Better Man" sees Schwimmer replacing his B3 with a Wurlitzer and the return of tenor saxophonist Holloman and trumpeter Etkin for some outstanding solos, ending the album on a high note.

A bit of history:
Born and raised in New York City, Alan Walker has been playing in clubs there since the mid-80s, with his first show at CBGBs and his first band, Club Iguana. He is the former lead singer and piano and organ player of the rootsy/melodic pop band The Brilliant Mistakes, who were aptly named after a song by one of their songwriting mentors, Elvis Costello. With them, Walker played all over the place in the early 90s through 2011, including all throughout NYC and Austin’s SXSW. Before stopping in 2012, they had released one EP and three albums, with two produced by Schleifer, who also produced Alan’s debut solo album, Something Up My Sleeve, in 2019. Alongside his musical career, Walker works full-time in book publishing (VP of Higher Education at Penguin Random House).

2024’s A Little Too Late is vibrant, polished, and filled with crafty roots-pop melodies. "I'll leave it to the listeners to decide exactly what they want to hear," says Alan, "interpreting the songs on their own, adding their own thoughts, dreams, biases, etc."