Robert Walter's new album, 'Better Feathers,' gathers his quarantine collaborations
Keyboardist Robert Walter looked at the two years of pandemic interruption in the music business as an opportunity for renewal. As birds molt old feathers to be replaced by new ones, Walter's new collection, Better Feathers, shakes off the quarantine doldrums with exciting new collaborations.
Beginning last June with "Or Else"/"Franklin," Walter released a monthly series of seven "digital 45s" — pairs of downloadable songs in the tradition of the two sides of 7-inch vinyl singles.
The album was Written and recorded entirely in his home studio. Walter was looking to replace the lack of live performances and to fend off boredom.
"It was time to shift gears and think of the situation as a positive, not a negative," he said, "an unexpected abundance of time to emerge with something of value."
Some pandemic-era projects have reflected the introspection of solitude. On Better Feathers, Walter got extrospective, finding inspiration in a wide array of his favorite styles: dub-reggae, disco, jazz, blues, funk and progressive rock.
Without a group to play with, Walter devoted his time to creating layers of his own sounds. The focus, he says, "turned to my personal nostalgia for sweaty bars and crowded dance floors."
Walter was soon sending audio files of these efforts to friends, starting a long-distance collaboration process. To supplement Walter's drum machine, tracks were added remotely by drummers Stanton Moore, Zack Najor and John Martin Kimock.
Greyboy Allstars bandmate Chris Stillwell provides electric bass on a pair of tunes, with Mike Gordon of Phish playing bass on the sci-fi tinged "Saucerman." Guitarist Craig Brodhead joined Walter and Moore on the debut songs, playing greasy disco funk and a bouncy tune inspired by '70s children's television themes.
Even on the spare, industrial edges of the bluesy piece "Hellhound" and moody solo song "Loomis," Walter's imagined sounds of once-packed bars and clubs deliver on the promise of better times to come.
Walter brings those better times to Seattle May 13 at Nectar Lounge with Stanton Moore and a pair of our talented neighbors: saxophonist Skerik and guitarist Andy Coe. Seattle's McTuff will open the show with Coe, organist Joe Doria and drummer Tarik Abouzied. More special guest appearances are definitely possible that night in Fremont.
Walter will also tour with Greyboy Allstars, supporting their new covers album, Get A Job, which is due April 1. The band hasn't planned shows for the Northwest yet. Stay tuned to The New Cool for updates.
The New Cool airs Fridays at 9 p.m., hosted by Abe Beeson and produced by KNKX Public Radio in Seattle, Wash.