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. A working musician since the age of 13, Walker spent years balancing his gigs as a sideman with a dizzyingly busy schedule of solo shows, regularly racking up more than 250 gigs annually. He sharpened his songwriting, too, developing a blend of autobiography and fiction that often revealed as much about the song's creator as its characters.
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. From "Voices" - a showcase for Walker's voice, with a high-lonesome yodel worthy of Dwight Yoakam - to the album's haunting, hard-rocking closer, "D.B. Cooper," Glad You Made It presents an interpretation of country music that's greasy one moment and gut-punching the next. A true Texas storyteller, Walker writes from the perspective of down-and-out characters who haunt the darker corners of the Lone Star State. There's the fake-tanned beauty who sells bass boats in the bittersweet, accordion-filled "Boat Show Girl." The addict who's ready to give into temptation during the honky-tonk rager "User." The procrastinator losing track of time in "Cupboard," a song whose first-rate guitar work evokes Dire Straits playing cowboy music in a Texas dancehall. The lyrics may be downcast, but Glad You Made It remains dynamic and defiantly upbeat, a result of lessons learned during Walker's tour in support of Wish You Were Here. That album earned worldwide acclaim from outlets like Rolling Stone, NPR Music and The Boot, and spent twelve straight weeks on the Americana radio albums chart.
The push-and-pull between emotionally-charged, soul-baring storytelling and bright, buoyant arrangements makes 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.