Gilded strums flow through our speakers in “Whatchoo Gonna Do,” and despite their regal quality, theirs is honestly just as soothing a sound as that of the rumble in “(Meet Me at the) Delaware Water Gap,” the gentle picking in “Angelina of the Sky” and the angst-ridden chug of “The Mystical Ballad of Gregory Jim.” As any listener who picks up a copy of Jon Patrick Walker’s Welcome to the Edge Times will discover, dynamic string play is a key component of this latest release from the critically acclaimed singer/songwriter, but it’s certainly not the only reason why I would tell you to give it a listen this fall. Walker unleashes beastly balladry of the most surreal variety in this disc, which I would deem one of the more important to debut out of the underground this month.
While the title track, “We Won the War,” “The Crystal Palace Park’ and “Angelina of the Sky” are structured as to create as much tension in the audience as possible (at least from where I sit), the cathartic release that we find later on in songs like the leadoff single “Luv U Girl” and the climactic “Blues For My Baby” balances out the energy of the record’s first act quite well. There’s never an instance where Welcome to the Edge Times translates as being wantonly scattered or too experimental for mass consumption; contrarily, I think that the diversity of its tracklist makes it a worthwhile listen in a lot more settings than one would expect a modern folk record to work in.
Instrumentally speaking, it wouldn’t be a stretch to say that this album is probably the most complex work that Jon Patrick Walker has attached his name to since dropping his debut, The Guilty Party, back in 2013. This isn’t to suggest that Welcome to the Edge Times is somehow overthought, nor overcomplicated, but there’s no getting around the fact that it took some dexterous compositional wit to design “The Mystical Ballad of Gregory Jim” and “(Meet Me at the) Delaware Water Gap” to sound as rustic as they do without crossing over into toxic throwback territory. He’s yet to receive the credit that he deserves for his use of skill in this department, but I have a feeling that might change after this record gets into steady rotation on the college radio dial.
If you haven’t already spent some time with the collective works of Jon Patrick Walker, I would recommend taking a close look at this most recent effort before diving into his other two LPs. Welcome to the Edge Times is undisputedly Walker’s most robust and unfiltered album to see widespread release, and as far as encapsulating his artistic identity goes, these tracks come about as close as any could ever get without being born of unplanned (and usually inaccessible), freeform jams. Folk buffs and fans of acoustic alternative music in general won’t be disappointed in what they find among these ten tenacious songs (plus two additional bonus tracks; a radio edit of “Whatchoo Gonna Do” and “Happy Xmas (in the Edge Times)”), and something tells me I won’t be the only critic to regard them as some of the best out right now from either the mainstream or underground.