Album Review: Butch Walker – “Afraid of Ghosts”
I lost my Father six years ago. Now my Dad was a good man, but the most apt description of our relationship would be “complicated”. It’s still something I’m trying to make sense of over half a decade after his passing. Now you are probably asking yourself – and quite rightly, I might add – why the hell am I going all daytime talk show about this when I should be edifying your good selves about awesome new music. Well, there is a reason. On discovering that Afraid of Ghosts – Butch Walker’s seventh studio album – was written in tribute to his late father, I couldn’t help but approach with a certain amount of caution.
Thankfully, Butch Walker is way too clever a songwriter to have gone all Candle In The Wind and Afraid of Ghosts is an incredibly skilful record that manages to be heartfelt without ever being overly sentimental. In the tradition of great American songwriters these are stories of real lives told in wonderfully distinctive detail. With the exception of a couple of tracks overt references to Walker’s father are rare, but a sense of loss and regret hangs heavy over the whole record and subtle references creep into most of the ten tunes on offer here.
Afraid of Ghosts is produced by alt-country royalty (and a personal favourite) Ryan Adams and it is easy to see why the two would feel a kinship. The haunting, low key beauty of tracks like Chrissie Hynde and Still Drunk has more than a passing similarity to some of Adams’ more introspective works. Highlights include the yearning Bed on Fire, the delicate Still Drunk and the reflective 21+, which features none other than Captain Jack Sparrow himself, Johnny Depp on guitar.
The undoubted centrepiece of the album though is Father’s Day. Nine tracks in, Walker goes for broke on a song that builds from a hushed, mournful opening to a heartbreaking crescendo, courtesy of a Bob Mould guitar solo. It’s a painfully truthful moment in which Walker lays himself bare as both a son and a father and one it’s difficult not to be affected by. By the time final track The Dark rolls around with its touching refrain of “into the dark, with my father at my side” this listener felt like he had been through the emotional wringer but also a real sense of… at the risk of sounding all daytime talk show again… closure.
Afraid of Ghosts is a powerfully honest and cathartic album and one you can’t help but feel will strike a chord with a lot of people. Having crafted something so deeply personal, Walker certainly deserves to. Gotta go, I’ve got something in my eye.