Butch Walker Is Back With A Bite On ‘Stay Gold’
Longtime rock ‘n’ roll troubadour Butch Walker has been through it all. A successful musician since he started off as a hair metal guitarist in the late ‘80s, he’s seen continued success as a performing musician, songwriter, and producer. Walker’s own musical career has remained relatively low-key, granting him the freedom to work with multiple projects in a variety of different genres. His mid 90’s rock outfit, Marvelous 3, saw the height of radio rock, and his solo work throughout the 2000s that spans multiple facets of rock ‘n’ roll (and recently took a roots-driven direction) continues to be prolific.
Walker’s last endeavor, Afraid Of Ghosts, saw through the mourning of his father’s death as well as other heavy, sentimental issues that rendered the songs sorrowful and melancholy. Though this was an outstanding and painstaking album, it only made sense to take it up a notch the next time around. That’s where Stay Gold comes in: a star-studded, Americana rock ‘n’ roll relapse that once again renders Walker as a virtuosic live-wire.
This isn’t to say that Stay Gold is easy to describe as a whole. Though it’s a return to form for the brash, sparkplugged rock ‘n’ roll, the record maintains tones of sweet ballads and Southern rock. With this combination, Stay Gold is a potent and diversified album that’s perhaps some of Walker’s most invigorating material thus far.
The album kicks off with the title track “Stay Gold,” a pulsing, bloodshot anthem- referencing The Outsiders- about staying true to yourself and your craziness in a relatively grounded world. In the chorus, Walker sings: “ You gotta stay gold, now ponyboy/Don't let ‘em get you down/While the locals all work for coffee/Remember you own this town/Not a soul is gonna listen/Yeah, your scream won't make a sound/In a world so black and white, boy/Stay gold.” The song is a steadfast, rock ‘n’ roll sucker punch all the way through, and it sends the rest of the album spinning into abundant potency. The lead single “East Coast Girl” strikes in a similar way, evoking sounds of wailing, sexually charged ‘80s rock in a manner that amplifies you after only the first chorus. Similarly, “Ludlow Expectations” is another fiery, romance anthem that shows off Walker’s tremendous ability to evoke passion with nothing but a melody. “Burning down the subway/Running down the alleyway/High out of our minds on love/Just you and me, mama/Feeling no drama/Singing every song we can think of.” Songs like these were made to play live, and hearing them on Walker’s in progress tour is sure to amp up their charm by at least a hundred degrees.
A good deal of Stay Gold also deals in unapologetic, country-tinged rock. This is best demonstrated through the song “Can We Just Not Talk About Last Night,” a sloppy, desperate stinger with whiskey on its breath about the one that got away. The song is a bit left field from other additions to Stay Gold, but it begs to be sang with a drink your hand and a widening smile on your face. Similarly, “Spark Lost” takes on much more of a Nashville sound as it recounts memories of a lost love. Revolving around a chorus made to chant, the song is propelled by an acoustic rhythm track and seasoned with rootsy leads and enough fiddle to fill in the cracks.
The two outliers on this album are “Descending” and the entirely acoustic “Record Store.” “Descending,” a soaring ballad with luminous vocals from Ashley Monroe, is a slow dance worthy ballad worth a world of heartache. “Record Store,” on the other hand, evokes a kind of cinematic nostalgia that carries twice its weight in melancholy. The song croons its way through sweet, tender lines about a time long gone that’s sure to crush any romantic bone in your body, but it doesn’t really soar until the fiddle kicks in around halfway through and sends it off into the stars. With enough nostalgia to go around, the song closes out Stay Gold on a delicate, endearing note.
Stay Gold is one of Butch Walker’s most invigorating, hard-hitting, and diverse releases thus far. With an arsenal of songs that each invokes their own unique charm, the album has the potential to linger in your heart and veins long after it leaves your ears. Whether you’re a longtime Butch Walker fan or just someone looking for a new slice of rock ‘n’ roll to chew on, Stay Gold is a must hear.
Listen to: “Stay Gold,” “Record Store”