Seth Walker began work on his latest album ‘I Hope I Know’ in 2019. However, the breakup of a romantic relationship and the onset of the Covid pandemic led him to relocate from Nashville to Asheville, North Carolina, near where he was born and raised, delaying completion of the record. The resultant album has a late-night vibe, and deals beautifully with heartbreak.
Stylistically, ‘I Hope I Know’ gives listeners what they’ve come to expect and like from Walker, a fusion of electric blues, jazz, and pop songcraft. Walker’s guitar playing, influenced by T-Bone Walker, is as good as ever, if in a somewhat more laid-back mode than some of his earlier work. He’s working with slower tempos and in a darker tone than in his previous work, and he handles the shift well.
The album gets off to a strong start with ‘The Future Ain’t What It Used To Be’ as Walker plays us in a with a strong riff. The song can be seen as commenting on the events of the last few years, and the changes the world is facing, and will continue to face, for sometime. There’s a note of melancholy here, as Walker, without directly expressing the thought, seems to mourn for the past and the world we were all used to. There’s hope here, too, though, as he sings, “I’m glad to see a change in me.”
The album is at its jazziest on the second track ‘Why Do I Cry Anymore?’ and ‘Remember Me’. The instrumentation on these songs adds several layers of emotional shading, making each of them more complex. It gets folkier on the title cut, which is largely acoustic. The personal themes are deeply strong on these tracks, the latter of which asks, “How do I say I love if I’m not coming home?” Later, as he searches through this album to find ways to deal with heartbreak, he ask, “Why is it so hard to satisfy my mind?”
The four covers on the album come from a diverse range of sources, and they the emotional and thematic content of the album perfectly. Walker provides excellent, well-chosen takes on Bobby Charles’ ‘Tennessee Blues’, performed with spare, acoustic instrumentation, Bob Dylan’s ‘Buckets of Rain’, Van Morrison’s ‘Warm Love’ and the gospel classic ‘Peace In the Valley’. The last two act as a sort of coda for the album, with Dylan’s lyric “bucket of tears” balanced out, and resolved by the assurance that “there will be peace in the valley.” This provides us with a resolution, and reveals the emotional arc Walker has been casting through this record.
Whether the song has an electrically-driven, more filled out sound, or is acoustic and sparse, Walker’s playing and arrangements excel at creating mood and providing the lyrics and singing with emotional shading and tones. ‘I Hope I Know’ delivers what Walker’s fans have come to love, and, for new listeners it’s an accessible place to get started with a great musician.
Track list: 1. The Future Ain’t What it Used to Be 2. Why Do I Cry Anymore? 3. Hope I Know 4. Remember Me 5. Satisfy My Mind 6. Tennessee Blues 7. Warm Love 8. River 9. Buckets of Rain 10. Peace in the Valley Record Label: Royal Potato Family Release Date: May 20th 2022 Buy ‘I Hope I Know’ now