Dallas-based singer-songwriter Joshua Ray Walker's 2019 debut album Wish You Were Here turned a garage-punk guitarist into a Texas country star on the rise. Examples of his songwriting mastery from his breakthrough release include the deeply personal "Canyon" and "Lot Lizard," an empathetic song told from the perspective of a truck driver and a prostitute.
Similarly-titled follow-up Glad You Made It (out July 10 on State Fair Records) offers more tales of poor decisions and fractured love songs, plus some guitar fuzz and a little levity sprinkled in for a broader picture of Walker's creative mind and musical talent.
"Cupboard" and other hard-hitting new selections represent a broader definition of Texas music: a term that incorporates not just Guy Clark and Willie Nelson but also Lightnin' Hopkins, ZZ Top and the 13th Floor Elevators.
"When I was growing up, I played a lot of rock," Walker says. "I played a lot of everything. No matter what the genre is, Texas music has a pretty distinct flavor to it. Even our rock bands like ZZ Top have a country flair, a Texas flair, like snakeskin boots and Stetsons and that whole thing. I'm in a band called Ottoman Turks, and we play garage rock but we all dress like we're in a country band. It's funny. We've been put on a lot of country bills just because of our promo photos and stuff, and then we show up and we put on a punk show."
Walker's trippiest solo offering to date, "D.B. Cooper" takes listeners on his strange journey from a teenage punk rocker to a solo act with enough momentum to open for American Aquarium.
"I played lead guitar in bands since junior high, but I never started writing until I was about 20," he says. "I mean, I was writing music but I wasn't writing lyrics. I wasn't writing country songs. So I started writing country songs and started playing lead for people less. I still love playing guitar, and I still play lead guitar in Ottoman Turks. We're active, and that's kind of my only outlet to play guitar now. We sound a lot more like 'D.B. Cooper' than we do the rest of the record. I wanted to bridge the gap between the two projects and have some fun playing guitar."
With Ottoman Turks and his solo work, Walker juggles different yet equally gratifying creative outlets that, once touring becomes an option again, should double as profitable ventures.
"I get to play with words and I get to be emotional if I want to with my (solo) songs," he adds. "With Ottoman Turks, I can drink beer and have a great time and play guitar really, really loud. It's two totally different things that I enjoy equally, and I'm very thankful that I get to do both. I get to just play guitar in Ottoman Turks, and that can be more fun at times. My solo music is definitely more cathartic, in a way."
Walker outdoes himself as a country storyteller with "Boat Show Girl," which offers perspective on bikini models who feign interest in the newest innovations in watercraft.
"Those girls have to go out there and smile and wave and put on a show for people to make a living," Walker says. "In a lot of ways, that's what musicians do. Music's the fun part. We're not getting paid to play music. We're getting paid to load gear and sell beer. We're supposed to get people on the dance floor and get people drinking. That's why bars pay us to be there. I felt that connection with the boat show model or the ring girl or whatever."
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Another standout track, "One Trick Pony," should sound like classic country music to even the most ornery traditionalists.
"I had that hook for years, and I just couldn't finish it out," Walker says. "I had an idea, and I had the whole chorus and kind of a melody. One of the first co-writing sessions I did in Nashville, I went and finished that song with Blue Foley and my producer John Pedigo. I wanted it to have this Roger Miller feel to it, and I feel like we accomplished that. It's kind of wacky, and I feel like it shows a lighter side of my writing. I feel like that first record was so dark, and a lot of the songs on this record are, too. It's a little bit lighter, which is nice."
Consider these songs and others off Glad You Made It--the second of three planned albums titled after commonly-spoken pleasantries--further proof that Dallas-Fort Worth, the same scene that brought us Charley Crockett and The Vandoliers, holds its own when compared to other country and roots music hotbeds.
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