CD Review: Sammy Walker - Brown Eyed Georgia Darlin'

40 years on, these demos showcase Walker's talent and what landed him his deal at Warner Brothers.
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The follow-up to Sammy Walker's 2008 LP, Misfit Scarecrow, has an interesting backstory, one that is 40 years in the making. In the 1970s, Walker sent a tape to Broadside magazine, a popular folk publication. They liked what they read and heard, publishing his lyrics and sending a tape to New York DJ Bobb Fass on WBAI.

Fass played Walker's tape, which caught the attention of folk singer Phil Ochs. Ochs helped Walker get a deal with the Folkways label and produced his first album. Later, he saw bigger things for Walker and played a collection of his demos for Warner Brothers head Mo Austin. Walker's voice was reminiscent of Bob Dylan and Woodie and Arlo Guthrie, yet still distinctly his. With artists such as Bruce Springsteen gaining in popularity and with the label looking for the next Dylan, Austin eagerly signed Walker on the strength of his demos. Now, 40 years later, the public gets to hear what got Austin so excited in the first place with the release of Brown Eyed Georgia Darlin'.

The CD leads off with the title track, a number that finds Walker accompanying himself on guitar and harmonica. His lyrics, both here and throughout, paint a vivid picture for the listener. The finger-picked guitar provides a gentle backdrop to Walker's excellent storytelling. Walker tackles the idea of not waiting around in "I Ain't Got Time To Kill." He does a fine bit of wordplay in the chorus, showcasing his lyrical strength over an intricate guitar part.

"A Cold Pittsburgh Morning" shows Walker putting the news to song to great effect. Here he brilliantly juxtaposes the tragedy he read in that day's paper with the joy the city felt over (presumably) the Steelers. The sense of pain in his voice is very real, as if he had lived it himself. On "If I Had Time," Walker ends up on the other side of the argument presented in "I Ain't Got Time To Kill." He still doesn't have time, but he is optimistic about what he'd do if he did. It's a nice retort to the bleakness of the other number.

"This is called 'Talkin' Women's Lib,' just for the hell of it. With those words, Walker launches into the last song on the album. The song is in the talking blues style of Dylan and Arlo Guthrie and offers some humorous lyrics to end the proceedings.

Changing tastes and lack of record label support found Walker off Warner Brothers before long and working as a store clerk for a number of years. This was someone who once was considered for the role of Woodie Guthrie in the film Bound For Glory and whose talent deserved better than its fate. Walker eventually returned to music, but he should have been a much bigger name, as these demos prove.