“Journeyman” usually refers to a seasoned and reliable guitarist or drummer, but what does it mean for a songwriter? In the case of Walt Wilkins, it means an everyman master who has portrayed, with passion and wisdom, all of the high hills and deep creases of our lives. A native of San Antonio and an Austinite for years, Wilkins is one of those artists who can only be fully understood through a grasp of his entire body of work, which is substantial. He emerges as a man of wisdom, a beacon for the rest of us, maybe even a healer.
Working quietly in the “next big thing” hustle of the Austin music scene, Wilkins has steadily gathered converts and friends, even a few disciples. His pieces resonate over time, simple in the beginning but becoming profound observations of universal truths.He has given us his take on simplicity (“Just Be”), joy (“Hey Tomorrow”), success (“I Chose This Road”), failure (“Some Men Fall”), the past (“Walnut Street”), the future (“Down the Track“), fate (“Trains I Missed”), poverty (“When There’s No Money Coming In”), faith (“The Angels’ Share”, “Poetry”), lost youth (“Privileges of Youth”), aging (“Up and On My Way”), mortality (“The Songs I’ve Sung”), replenishment (“Rain All Night”), resistance (”Hang On to Your Soul”), persistence (“Velvet Sky”), love (“Genevieve”, “Untitled”), lost love (“Absolut Crazy”), young love (“Something Like Heaven”, “Soft September Night”), old love (“Under This Cottonwood Tree”, “Walk Through This World With Me”), gratitude (“Between Midnight and Day”), rebirth (“Wrapped”), acceptance (“Quiet Moon”, “Grey Hawk”), and salvation (“It’s Only Rain”).
And then there are the masterpieces. In “Tonight I Might”, Wilkins contemplates hopping that train and leaving it all behind. The result is simultaneous joy and regret, capped by soaring, call and response guitar work. In “18 Days of Rain”, a man gives strength by refusing to bend to his lover’s melancholy. “Someone Somewhere Tonight” spans birth to last rites, passing first love, hopelessness and rebirth along the way. In “Walnut Street”, we hear whispers of the past in an old Texas home. “Long Winter” speaks to, and for, a family that has survived hardship and faces the future, together. In “If It Weren’t For You”, Wilkins gets down on his knees in gratitude for his woman, and in “Dear God”, he asks his God for both guidance and an explanation. Finally, he takes a damn good shot at the spiritual essence of love in “More Like the River”.
Wilkins maintains a coveted weekly slot at the Saxon Pub when he is in Austin, currently on Wednesday nights. Backed by the seasoned Mystiqueros and often accompanied by his lovely wife Tina Mitchell Wilkins, all accomplished artists in their own rights, Walt Wilkins continues to quietly bless us with his wise and beautiful observations of life and love.
Three things you should know about Walt: (1) he lived in Nashville for 11 years (he got back to Texas as quick as he could), (2) he has been called the John Steinbeck of music, and (3) he helped Sam Baker produce his debut album, Mercy, in 2004.
A|S Series (November 23, 2016)