Once the best-kept secret of Dallas’ music scene, Joshua Ray Walker catapulted himself into the international spotlight with his 2019 debut, Wish You Were Here. An album of character-driven songwriting and golden-era Texas twang, Wish You Were Here didn’t just nod to the larger-than-life troubadours who’d inspired Walker’s craft – it brought him into their ranks, too, adding Walker’s name to the shortlist of songwriters worthy of carrying the torches of Guy Clark, John Prine, and Blaze Foley. What may have looked like overnight success to an outsider was, in reality, the product of a decade-long climb up the industry’s ranks. Walker spent years balancing his gigs as a sideman with solo shows, regularly racking up more than 250+ gigs a year. That prolific approach now leads Walker to 2020’s Glad You Made It, a sophomore record that both matches and magnifies the vital, vulnerable lure of his debut. Emotionally-charged, soul-baring storytelling and bright, buoyant arrangements make Glad You Made It a modern classic. Like the Texas titans before him, Joshua Ray Walker confidently blurs the lines between the personal and the universal, between fact and fiction, between country music and the sundry sounds that orbit the genre. With Glad You Made It, he lays another brick in the pathway he’s been constructing for years, pointing his way toward a destination that’s unique and utterly compelling.
In most musical careers, the debut album tends to lay bare the soul of the artist as she introduces herself to the world, its songs created from a real life still pure and unencumbered by any spotlight or harsh exposure. Jade Jackson, however, has chosen to flip that tandem on its head, and with her second full-length, Wilderness, she casts a light more focused on her own life than ever before.
From Wilderness’s opening blast “Bottle It Up” to its closing whisper,
“Secret.” it’s clear that Jackson’s music delivers on multiple powerful levels. Written to the beat of her own feet’s pace while jogging, the opener is a standout upbeat number that reveals Jackson’s ability to be deep and breezy all at once. The twangy guitar and whip-smart backbeat propel the tune and the album that follows with ease and tarnished grace. One of “Bottle It Up’s subjects appears again in the title and tale of “Loneliness,” a slow-burning, tender ballad about Jackson’s own heartrending battle with those feelings.
Whether holding down the buoy of your feelings or holding up a mirror to your life, self-examination and reflection is no easy undertaking, especially when mining your darkest moments for material to put into song. With Wilderness, Jade Jackson has braved the depths of her soul and figured out a course for survival -though she will be the first to admit that her journey still has miles to go.