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HOPEWELL • Walt Wilkins

Walt Wilkins is a burly but sensitive bard from the Hill Country of Texas. The literate singer-songwriter--who keeps the comment comparative of his abilities to those of John Steinbeck "close"--fittingly chronicles the physical, mental, and emotional journey of his little family on its way back to Central Texas from Middle Tennessee's Nashville. Up and out of Music City to where things feel more like home. Like Hopewell.

While Steinbeck's Grapes of Wrath was the Joad family setting out for a kinder, gentler way, ultimately the Wilkins clan--from the sound of things, anyway--fare far and away better. Hopewell, as the name sounds, is a record of happiness, of intimacy, of travel and finding a safe landing spot. With this effort, Wilkins ditches the small Nashville labels, and goes for "under-promoting" it himself.

Solid are the songs, from the uptempo get up and go of "Going Up to Fortworth" to the Whitmanesque call for companionship "Walk Through This World With Me." Admirably workmanlike in his outlook, his traditional song structure, and his no-nonsense musical textures, Wilkins is a man most comfortable and confident in his musical skin, on this, his fifth record. There is sweetness in the leaving of one place for another, and while no heavy darkness mars the lightness that is found in the muse of relocation, Hopewell is full up with substantive reality. Real as heft, breath, and bone.
• Paige La Grone Babcock

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Walt & Hopewell

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