Texas-based Zack Walther Band announces an October 25 release date for their new album of Americana and roots music, titled The Westerner, releasing October 25, and distributed by TuneCore.
The band will perform a number of Texas dates in support of the new disc, including a very special CD release show that will be announced on September 12 at Zack Walther’s “All-Star Tribute to George Strait” concert, also featuring members of the Ace in the Hole Band, at the Historic Brauntex Theater in New Braunfels, which is already sold out.
Zack Walther Band has also performed a number of dates with the great Rodney Crowell, who has said of Zack: “Whether it’s on record or a live performance, you can always count on Zack Walther to make use of one hell of a high powered voice.”
Equally at home performing country, blues, R&B and rock, Zack titled the new disc The Westerner because he set out to create an album that is different than anything he and his band has ever released before. It embodies his journey from the Texas music scene to the main stream landscape. Americana, Blues, or country, where ever The Westerner lands, it will transcend though many genres because it combines all of Zack's musical influences and all he’s learned performing in the Texas music scene for the past 15 years.
The album’s concept builds upon ideas explored in Walther’s earlier Americana recordings, constructing a sonic landscape akin to the American Frontier of the late 1800s – a place of untamed territories where life was free, wild, unrestrained and at times rowdy. The album explores personal pride, betrayal, loss and redemption with Walther’s experimentation and lyrical hooks playing the hero. It takes listeners on a journey to the outskirts of traditional rhythm and blues and evokes the bold and eccentric yet accessible qualities of a Quinten Tarantino film. The Westerner is a barn-burning review, which walks the line between authenticity and disarming self-awareness.
“The Westerner is different and it’s something that personifies my taking a risk and stepping out of my comfort zone to create a record that will, I hope, stand the test of time,” says Zack about the new disc. ”I want someone to listen to The Westerner 30 years from now and think it’s a great record, and that is what every artist wants.”
Zack has been working on this album for the past year and a half, and he adds, “This is the record I’ve been working towards my entire musical life.”
Zack’s musical influences, and those heard on The Westerner cover a wide-range from Elvis Presley to the Beatles to Bruce Springsteen, but just like those iconic artists, Zack says, “Everyone’s musical roots go back to R&B and the blues – even those artists from the so-called British Invasion in the 1960s – we all can trace our music back to the Mississippi Delta.”
Of the 10 songs on The Westerner, seven are all new and the remaining three had been previously released on an EP. “Those three songs are personal favorites of mine, and I wanted to share them again in new form on this record,” he says.
One of the older songs, “Bailey’s Light,” was a ghost story in its original form. Zack and his bandmates performed it a Capella in what Zack describes as “like an oral history,” but then he re-created it into a song. “That gave ‘Bailey’s Light’ a whole new life and it went from a chain gang chant to an upbeat song,” he says. “That new arrangement called for us to re-record it.”
Although Zack led the creative effort for The Westerner, Zack credits Matthew Biggs, his drummer, and Mike Atkins, who plays piano, organ, and keys in addition to singing, for helping him make sure The Westerner got done. “What helped immensely is that Matt has a studio so we could record at our own pace without a deadline or a meter running. We could go into the studio a couple of times a week and work at our own pace.” Well-known Austin-area guitarist David Grissom (Joe Ely, John Mellencamp) also played on four tracks.
Typically, people write an entire album before they start recording,” he explains, “but The Westerner was not done that way. We recorded it in parts – for example, we have two songs with a horn section which we brought in when we were ready for it. Some of the songs were written, and some songs had music but no lyrics. Another song, ‘Casualty,’ is one we perform at our live shows all the time and we knew our long-time fans would be expecting to find that on this CD”
When asked for his favorite song on The Westerner, Zack says it’s one called “What Kind of Man.” He says, “My mentor Rodney Crowell heard me sing about eight years ago, and he told me then that I have a great voice but I should go home and listen to blues singers and R&B singers and learn from them. In short, he told me to figure out who I am.”
“What Kind of Man” came out of a dream Zack had one night, and he woke up and wrote the song in 30 minutes. “I was influenced by Otis Redding’s song, ‘These Arms of Mine,’ and ‘What Kind of Man’ has a power that people identify with the blues when I perform it,” Zack says.
In fact, Zack says the overall theme of The Westerner is soul. He says, “I have never sung like this on an album, and I reached out to places in my soul that I didn’t think I could get to and I captured it. I have to say that singing with soul and with heart – and with meaning – is something I hadn’t done before.” He adds, “Some of that comes from my musical influencers, but some comes with things that happened in my life – personal tragedy – and dealing with that pain. That pain has given me a lot more to sing about and to sing for.”
According to Zack, The Westerner is “the record my fans always wanted me to make.” It is a big change from Zack’s last record, and that is on purpose. He says, “I wanted this path to be different – I needed to go in a different direction and this record goes so beyond where I’ve been.” He believes The Westerner presents the best vocal performance of his career and he hopes it shows that his voice is as good as his fans think it is – and will attract people who are not yet fans. He says, “My hope is that The Westerner is a record my fans can be proud of.”