Album Review – Dolly Shine’s ‘Walkabout’

It’s nice to see artists that care about the whole concept of an album. It’s more than just a couple songs you send out to your fans to tide them over every couple years. A proper album should be a snapshot of where an artist is at with their career.

Of course, there are albums made that aren’t necessarily about an artist, but rather, a vision that they have. This unshackling of the imagination usually unfolds into what we call a concept album. Heck, just this year we’ve had some fantastic concept albums come our way with two being Country Music Mind album of the year contenders.

So when I heard that some group named Dolly Shine was going to be making a concept album called Walkabout, I was pretty intrigued. Not all concept albums are executed well, but the concept of an album that centers on a lonely drifter and his thoughts at least intrigued me.

So did Dolly Shine manage to pull this off? Yes, absolutely. It might seem a little cheesy to call Walkabout outlaw in nature but that’s the best description I can come up with. Right away from the opening snarling electric guitar of “Blackbird” I could tell I was in for a hell of a ride. With a sound that blends some excellent Texas-Country with Southern Rock, Walkabout is one of the most lyrically honest, and yet highly enjoyable albums you’ll hear this year.

The journey of our drifter in question starts out swinging from “Blackbird” before moving into a tale of chasing after dangerous women in “Come Out Swingin’” and then mercilessly telling an old lover to back off on “Closing Time” (“I love you woman, but I hate you”). He seems a bit arrogant and reckless, but you have to remember that this is an album focusing on an outlaw drifter, not some everyday man.
Of course, the album’s fiercest moments come strangely towards the end. “Snakeskin Boots” fights alongside “Hitchhikin’” for the best track on this album with its tale of two cousins who are involved in the meth industry. One day the one cousin goes to deliver a batch and ends up not coming back. Turns out the poor guy was left murdered. You can see it coming during the song but it’s still bone-chilling when it comes. The aforementioned “Hitchhikin’” tells the tale of a murderous hitchhiker in case your day wasn’t gruesome enough. These aren’t nice little fairy tales, they’re damn good stories.

While the lyrical content is a big plus on this album, the sound is arguable even better. Wesley Hall’s fiddle play all throughout the album is excellent, honing in on a Western vibe throughout many of the tracks. The darker atmosphere brought into “Snakeskin Boots” by the opening banjo and fiddle is another highlight as well. I also enjoyed the softer touches on “Old Flame” which go for a more spacey, acoustic vibe.

One criticism I have of Walkabout is the order in which the songs are presented. Don’t get me wrong, there is not a track here that I would necessarily cut, but I feel as if some tracks could have switched their order. “Anywhere Close To Fine” for example takes a look at our lonesome drifter who realizes that his actions have consequences. He knows he isn’t fine and he knows he can’t continue with his ways. It’s just strange that it comes right before the two darkest outlaw tracks on the album. If anything, “Anywhere Close To Fine” should have been moved towards the end of the album.

It’s still a damn great country album on its own merit however. I walked into this group and this album totally fresh and left with a very strong impression.

At nine tracks long, this album is a great length for conveying a concept, even if its not followed through to the best of its ability. While the sound is pleasing and highly enjoyable, the subject matter at times can be incredibly dark and malicious. It’s something I quite enjoyed and am pleased to find yet another solid new country group to champion on here.

Best Tracks: “Snakeskin Boots”, “Hitchhikin'”, “Blackbird”


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