Friday, January 29, 2021

Folk Rock and Soul Review: Skyway Man - The World Only Ends When You Die

Score: 87/100 
Release Date: October 23, 2020
Genre: Folk Rock, Soul, Gospel
Similar Artists:  My Morning Jacket, Wilco, M. Ward

James Wallace, singer, songwriter, and producer behind Skyway Man describes his third studio album, The World Only Ends When You Die, as "a spinning disc flashing the finest examples of cosmological country and sci-fi gospel blues." If that's not enough to give it a listen, I don't know what is. After I did, I found his description quite apt. There's a lot of soul here, a lot of good ole fireside foot-stomping, and enough howls at the moon to make the wolves think you're one of their own.  

Songs such as "Night Walking, Alone," "Sometimes Darkness…," and "Common Void" reveal the sonic easiness of early My Morning Jacket while "Muddy Water" is so early Dylan-esque it feels as if it belongs on one of the New Basement Tapes Dylan cover albums alongside Marcus Mumford's "Going Back to Kansas City."  

The World Only Ends When You Die is construed by the artist as a cinematic psych-folk opera about a person rendered incapable of coping with an uncertain reality following a near-death experience. Under a spell of mixed wisdom by several "trickster guides" hailing from the future, they leap back into the world of the dead only to spend a hero's journey climbing out, finally returning to the strange American existence of 2020. 

After Wallace's lyrics seep into the listener's consciousness, a realization sets in that while the struggles we've all faced within the uncertainty of 2020 have hardened us, that hardening has also left us stronger and better prepared to take on whatever the future brings.  

"Muddy water like a piece of ancient church glass flowing. We're on the darkest stretch, but the bend ahead is glowing."

"Sometimes darkness in the mind, sometimes it leaves us."

"Don't feel bad about being alive. Sometimes the ship rocks you side-to-side. Some hold tightly, some watch the moonrise bobbing up and down in the water."

I've given this album a good ten listens, and the beauty of it doesn't fade after two or three. In fact, the more I listen, it seems the more I discover. A welcome start to the 2021 year in music.  

- Tom Endyke | Guitar & Pen

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