Seth Walker – I Hope I Know
10 songs – 34 minutes
One of the most introspective tune-smiths on the scene today, Seth Walker takes listeners on an unhurried, roller coaster of emotion with his latest CD. The 11th solo release in his career, it’s an intimate effort that deals with the uncertainties of life and his own recovery from personal upheavals caused by the end of a longtime love affair and a career upended because of COVID-19. Despite the dark theme, it serves up salve for the soul for anyone who’s suffered the same fate.
Born in rural North Carolina into a family of classically trained musicians, Seth took up cello at age three but turned to the guitar and the blues in his teens after his discovery of B.B. King, Ray Charles, T-Bone Walker and Snooks Eaglin. Possessing a warm voice and a light touch on the strings, he’s been infusing aspects of his personal life through his songs since the beginning of his recording career.
A 15-year veteran of the Austin music scene, he relocated to Nashville in the late 2000s after forming an enduring songwriting partnership with Grammy-winner Gary Nicholson, who produced his Leap of Faith CD in 2009 and co-wrote several of the tunes. With his world caving in, Walker uprooted himself to Asheville, N.C., two years ago, where he worked through his troubles, waited for his world to start spinning again and put the finishing touches on this album, a follow-up to the soulful Are You Home?, which debuted in the No. 2 spot on Billboard’s blues chart in 2019.
Engineered by Brook Sutton at The Studio Nashville and produced by longtime collaborator Jano Rix, who contributes keyboards, percussion, bass and backing vocals to the mix, this one was recorded in multiple settings with contributions from J.P. Ruigerri (slide guitar), Matt Glassmeyer (horns), Myles Weeks and Rhees Williams (bass), Tommy Perkinson (drums) and Canadian roots superstar Allison Russell (backing vocals).
A collection of seven originals – three co-written with Nicholson, three with Oliver Wood, front man of the Wood Brothers, and one with Jarrod Dickenson, Walker cuts to the chase with the opener, “The Future Ain’t What It Used to Be,” a wry observation about the roadblocks life throws in your way, noting “the world flipped around and slowed me down…I must say I am glad to see a change in me.” The self-reflection continues in “Why Do I Cry Anymore,” a percussive number that questions how to recover from a broken heart.
Based on a poem by Rainer Maria Rilke, the title track, “Hope I Know,” addresses forgiveness and features Russell before Seth delivers “Remember Me,” a jazzy number delivered in falsetto, which deals with memories that never fade. An interesting blues infused with Buddhist ideology, “Satisfy My Mind,” follows before covers of Bobby Charles’ “Tennessee Blues,” which reflects on his latest move, and Van Morrison’s “Warm Love,” which provides a little respite.
Three more numbers — “River,” a languorous ballad that draws similarities to running water and the strength that flows within all of us, Bob Dylan’s “Buckets of Rain” and “Peace in the Valley” – bring the emotional journey to a close.
If you’re looking for something upbeat and frenetic, look elsewhere. But if you’re soul searching, I Hope I Know will strike a positive chord for you.