Austin Walkin’ Cane – Muscles Shoals | Album Review

Austin Walkin’ Cane — Muscle Shoals 

Hoboville — 2023

10 tracks; 40 minutes

Muscle Shoals is Austin Walkin’ Cane’s eighth blues album, and, once again, he teams up with songwriting partner, Chris Allen, for raw honest look into the soul of blues. Five of the album’s ten tracks were recorded at the FAME Recording Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. FAME and The Shoals mystique add to that raw honesty and stoke the gritty intensity that is a trademark of Cane’s blues.

Austin Walkin’ Cane (whose real name is Austin Charanghat) grew up in Rocky River, a suburb of Cleveland, Ohio, located along the shores of Lake Erie. Chris Allen, a Cleveland-based singer-songwriter, and Cane have been writing songs together since their teenage years. That partnership has resulted in a Blues Music Award nomination along with regional recognition and, prior to COVID, a world-wide touring schedule.

Cane was born with a rare condition that affected his legs, particularly his left leg, making it extremely difficult to walk or run. Cane spent much of his early years being examined by doctors and in treatment at hospitals, so learning to play music became his refuge. The Walkin’ Cane moniker came from a long ago encounter on a New Orleans sidewalk when Cane still used a cane to get around. Cane, who was playing on Bourbon Street, encountered a local homeless man, who shouted out, “Hey walkin’ cane, can you spare some change for a brother?”

The recording session at FAME happened after Cane, scheduled to play a house party in Memphis, learned “that Muscle Shoals was only three hours away.” He booked an afternoon session at FAME, resulting in fifteen acoustic numbers—played live in the famous studio—of Cane and his National Resonator Guitar. The other five tracks on Muscle Shoals were recorded at SPA studios in Canton, Ohio. Don Dixon of SPA mixed and produced those tracks and mastered the entire album.

If there’s a theme running through Muscle Shoals it’s found in both the opening number, “Waiting for a Little Sunshine,” and in the closing song, “Sun Go Down,” a haunting tune in that traditional country blues style. While “Little Sunshine” is melodic—think Mississippi John Hurt—and almost upbeat, after the “rains come down,” Cane pleads with the Almighty to “take these blues away” and there’s hope that things will get better. By the time listeners get to “Sun Go Down,” we’re reminded that each day after a loss can bring more pain and suffering.

On “Midnight Creep,” another tune within that sunshine/sundown theme, Cane shines with his quick picking and slide guitar playing. “One Heart Walkin’,” by far, the strongest song on the album, features a classic blues guitar intro with a mesmerizing refrain. “Sweet Mama Brown” also features another classic intro and showcases Cane’s finger-pickin’ prowess.

Muscle Shoals includes three covers—a great rendition of Bob Dylan’s classic “Highway 61” along with two blues classics—Blind Willie Johnson’s “Dark Was The Night, Cold Was The Ground,” and Leroy Carr’s “(In the Evening) When The Sun Goes Down.” Obviously, these two classics fit with the sunshine/sundown theme and Austin Cane’s performance on “In the Evening” is exceptional.

On Austin Walkin’ Cane’s website, there is the tagline Damn Fine Blues. Muscle Shoals showcases Cane’s raw honesty and gritty intensity and is definitely some damn fine blues.

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