In 2014, sisters Ivy Dene and Sophie Dawn, then teenagers, signed a major label record deal with Warner Music Nashville as duo Walker County. From heartbreaks to true loves and county fairs to The Kelly Clarkson Show, fans around the world have followed as their sound and their spirits have evolved over the better part of a decade.
We were thrilled to meet up with them (and their parents!) at the C2C festival in London last year and had the pleasure of watching them close down the evening up on the Saloon stage in All Bar One. One of the USP’s that Walker County has is that Sophie is actually the drummer of the group. We talked for a while about her Rock influences and love of drummers like Motley Crue’s Tommy Lee. Well now, at long last, the women of Walker County are stepping out in style and releasing their first EP ‘No Smoke and Mirrors’ tomorrow (Feb 10th).
Walker County have impressed with songs like ‘Bits and Pieces’ and the very feisty ‘Shovel’ over the last few years but ‘No Smoke and Mirrors’ sees them evolving their sound a touch. The fiery, southern vibes that were all over ‘Shovel’ are still there, particularly on a song like, ‘Between Boyfriends’ but the EP also contains some quite mature and reflective moments too.
EP opener ‘Stoned’ sees the duo pushing boundaries with a very floaty, dreamy, ephemeral song about being high on love. ‘You’ve got me spinning in a purple haze’, Ivy sings as the Kacey Musgraves influences are freed and let run wild. This is a new direction for Walker County and one that works very well for them. Similarly, ‘You and Jesus’, a duet with rising artist and songwriter, Greylan James (check out our last interview with him here) closes down the EP in a tender and emotional way. Some very raw and live sounding acoustic guitars provoke a feeling of intimacy on this track and the lyrics only exacerbate that, dealing with, as they do, love, commitment and faith. A tasteful guitar solo ushers in an anthemic final third as the song hammers home its meaningful message.
If we are talking ‘meaningful messages’ then ‘Mirror Mirror’ is the apex of how Walker County have grown and evolved on this EP. It’s a powerful, uplifting song about manipulation and control. Strong vocals and carefully panned, Maddie & Tae-esque melodies bring a sense of slick, smooth feels to the song. ‘Instead of breaking her heart, give her a break today,’ the duo sing on a song where the gravitas is expertly handled rather than being cliched or overtly preachy.
‘Yours Tonight’, meanwhile, is another atmospheric ballad that builds carefully through intimate production values to a bigger, soaring chorus where the vocals and the drums compete for top billing! Yep, this is sister versus sister right here folks! It’s a cautionary tale about knowing better and about resisting the urge to hook up with an ex or a friend. ‘It’s hard for me to face the truth that I’m not yours, just yours tonight’, Ivy sings on this relatable, melodic anthem.
‘No Smoke and Mirrors’ sees Walker County moving into slicker, more mature areas but thankfully, they haven’t abandoned that sense of cheeky fun that was a huge part of their previous releases. ‘Between Boyfriends’ is the song on the EP that will have you up dancing and hollering ‘amen’. It’s classic or trademark Walker County, if such a thing exists! The song builds to a huge chorus driven by Def Leppard-esque drums and gang vocals. ‘A girl can’t be judged for the things she does between boyfriends’ is the message here. Think Raelynn or Lauren Alaina jamming with Joe Elliot and co and you’ll be somewhere close to a touchstone reference. ‘Between Boyfriends’ is going to be a great addition to Walker County’s live set and provides the EP with a sense of light relief given its placement right in between quite a lot of serious and thought-provoking songs.
‘No Smoke and Mirrors’ should be the start of a long and successful career for Walker County. There’s a maturity and gravitas on this set of songs that the sisters should be very proud of. There’s also a sense of fun too and having seen the band play live I know how important something like that is to them. It’s been a long and winding road for the Walker sisters (and their dad, who also plays in the band) to get to this release but now that they are here they should take some time to sit back and enjoy the feeling because, if all goes to plan, life is going to get very busy for them in the coming few weeks, months and years!
Tracklist: 1. Stoned 2. Mirror Mirror 3. Between Boyfriends 4. You’re Tonight 5. You and Jesus Record Label: Warner Music Nashville Release Date: 10th February Buy ‘No Smoke and Mirrors’ now