CD Review: Walt Wilkins – Plenty (Redeye, 2012)
Texas singer-songwriter Walt Wilkins gets deeper with every release. Having spent ten years as a Nashville songwriter, Wilkins returned to his native Texas. He reminisces about his time on Music Row in “Between Midnight and Day,” but doesn’t miss it, and it’s in his native hill country, physically and mentally between San Antonio and Austin, that his music has grown more earthen and multihued. The absence of songwriting appointments, clocked sessions and market-driven recording/touring cycles has provided Wilkins time to develop a stockpile of material and a community of like-minded musicians. He’s hung on to the country, rock and soul sounds of his earlier work, but there’s more of a folk-singer’s eye to his new lyrics, and the delivery has the cadence of deep thought, rather than rehearsal.
The album opens under a shade tree, sharing Wilkins love of the spot’s introspective possibilities; it’s one of several songs that find Wilkins connecting to natural surroundings. He’s contented dipping his toes in the river and professes his love for the hill country in “A Farm to Market Romance.” The assembled musicians all breathe the same Cottonwood-scented air, as their music echoes the vocalist’s unhurried delivery. Wilkins is an infectious optimist who believes life’s setbacks are no match for a strong soul and that love is nearly inexplicable in its ability to entice, captivate, excite and repair. He sees loneliness as an opportunity to seek connection, and the chilly night of “Rain All Night” is celebrated as for its drought-ending downpour. There’s country deep in Wilkins’ soul, and deep soul in his country music.