Colter Wall – Songs of the Plains

On new album Songs of the Plains, Canadian singer-songwriter Colter Wall digs further back than most traditionalists to celebrate his native land. Just as Hank Snow paid tribute to the Great White North with his underrated concept albums about Nova Scotia (1967) and the Yukon (1968), Wall’s distinct voice paints historic images of gorgeous scenery and hard-working ranch hands.

Right out the gate, Wall tells a vivid story about his homeland with “Plain to See Plainsman.” The new composition could pass as a cover of one of Johnny Horton’s musical travelogues. Elsewhere on the album, Wall laments missing out on simpler times with “The Trains Are Gone” and mythologizes tough hombres with “Wild Bill Hickok.” Each nod to the past features an impressive supporting cast, including steel guitar legend Lloyd Green and Willie Nelson’s harmonica player, Mickey Raphael.

Although the whole album sounds like a relic in the best possible way, only four of 11 songs aren’t originals recently penned by Wall. Traditional cowboy tunes “Night Herding Song” and “Tying Knots in the Devil’s Hair” fit the theme and tone of the record, as do songs by brilliant outsider Billy Don Burns (“Wild Dogs”) and the Canadian  Jimmie Rodgers, Wilf Carter (“Calgary Round-Up”).

At times, genuine country singers with solid record collections and growing arrays of original songs seem like they’re a buffalo nickel a dozen. Even the ones I like might be playing it a little safe at times. Wall, gifted with a truly unique voice that sounds put-on until you hear him speak, can’t simply be just another rocker turned roots singer. He’s naturally positioned to do his own thing, and he wisely chose to head down that path yet again with songs that celebrate the nation that gifted us Jesse Winchester, Terri Clark, Shania Twain, and others.

Colter Wall
Songs of the Plains
[Young Mary’s]