Hearing Colter Wall’s voice--described as “Johnny Cash’s [voice] in the morning” — coming out of his wirey, 23-year old frame is surprising and exhilarating the first time you hear it. The road-weary tone and rustic storytelling on his most recent album Songs of the Plains are also remarkable given the current state of popular country music. Colter Wall’s sound is a throwback that has launched him into a constellation of contemporary country artists (Jason Isbell, Sturgill Simpson, and Chris Stapleton) linked by the producer of Wall’s first two full-length records, Dave Cobb. Cobb has said that his work is driven by unique voices that can carry a story. At Colter’s 9:30 Club his voice was clearly the main attraction.
Wall started alone, spotlighted with just his beat-up guitar and that voice, for a four-song introduction. The solo set featured a cover of “Night Herding Song.” The traditional cowboy composition is one of several covers that make up one-third of Songs of the Plains and serve to deepen the album’s connection to the past. The album would be right at home in a stack of dusty vinyl from fifty years ago.
The show’s energy turned up once his band, The Scary Prairie Boys — The made of Patrick Lyons on pedal steel, Jason Simpson on bass, Solly Levine on drums, and Jake Groves on harmonica — joined him on the stage. “Motorcycle,” from his self-titled second album, and “Plain to See Plainsman,” the first track from Songs of the Plains, were standouts.
Country troubadour Vincent Neil Emerson of Fort Worth, Texas set the tone for the night taking swigs of beer between songs about the dangers of women and fried chicken.