Seth Walker – Your Van Is On Fire | Book Review

Seth Walker Your Van Is On Fire

Ostinato Muse Press

95 Pages Softcover edition

Over the last 20-plus years, Seth Walker has been shared his original music through eleven albums and constant touring. He started out working in a solidly blues-based style. The passing of time has revealed the true depths of his musical interests, which span jazz, soul, country into sounds from around the world.

The truth is that Walker has talents beyond his skills as a singer, songwriter, and guitar player, which becomes abundantly clear as you take in his new book, subtitled “The miscellaneous meanderings of a musician”. He deftly mixes short musings on a variety of life experiences with several poems and numerous examples of his fine artistic endeavors.

Following an introduction by Oliver Wood, the noted roots musician, Walker digs into life sharing this observation, “No one showed Lightnin’ Hopkins how to be so Lightnin’-like or schooled Duke Ellington on how to swing like a royal, …..Mark Twain said education consists mainly in what we’ve unlearned. You gotta play it by feel man.”

Taking readers from the North Carolina log cabin he grew up in to deep in the heart of Texas, across the country, and on to a moment when he was passing the time in a Tokyo bar with a handful of locals, Walker reveals subtle insights served up with plenty droll humor. Vignettes about losing his audience to an animal act, experiencing a Grateful Dead show, or the tale that spawned the book’s title all ring true with the hard-earned wisdom gained from reflection of one’s life journey.

In the section titled “Masters,” he offers glimpses of a number of musical influences, elaborating on the lessons from people like Allen Toussaint, Willie Nelson, Dr. John, and Guy Clark. One remarkable story revolves around a night at a famed Florida blues club with funk master George Clinton in the audience. Writing about T-Bone Walker, he divulges, “The man was a snake around the beat. Through some musical sleight of hand, he played drums on the guitar….He sang the blues like a trumpet player….delivering me to the most perfect orb of sound I had never known.”

Interspersed throughout the book are examples of Walker’s paintings, with more highlighted in the final section. Most are done with oil on canvas, but one titled “Trying My Hand” is a striking work done with chalk pastel on paper. Switching mediums, the examples of his poetry seem simple at first glance, but repeated readings slowly reveal the universal truths in works like “Truth Be Told” and “Leaves,” the ending of which packs quite a punch.

While the book runs less than 100 pages, it is a fun read, and definitely thought-provoking. It also allows  fans to gain greater insight into the depth of Walker’s artistry. Available on his website, along with his paintings, this book is a small treasure that readers will savor time and again.

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