Album Review :
Orion Walsh - The Hitchhiker's Son

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Artist: Orion Walsh

Album: The Hitchhiker’s Son

Label: None

Release Date: July 19, 2010

Reviewer: Eric Pettersson

Tracklisting

  1. On Down the Road
  2. Wastin’ Time
  3. Green Paper Black Lines
  4. Incognito
  5. Good Things Come to Those That Wait
  6. Lonesome Highway Blues
  7. Leaving Again
  8. Out of Luck, Out of Time
  9. Far from the Truth
  10. Behind Me
  11. Warrant for My Arrest

By now most of you probably know that Orion Walsh, former lead singer for the emo band Slow Coming Day, has moved on to a solo country-folk project. His debut, Tornado Lullabies, came out in 2008, surprising some fans with the totally different direction musically and lyrically. His sophomore release, The Hitchhiker’s Son continues in the vein of that first album, full of jangly, rough-and-tumble sob stories, political protests, and traveling songs.

In fact, I would have no problem saying Orion Walsh is the most political singer we’ve ever covered here at IVM. “Green Paper Black Lines” talks about the heavy expectations of modern life to live for a career and do what everyone else is doing. It is equally critical of taxes and war, suggesting frustration with big government whether it is liberal or conservative. The bigger focus of the song, however, is on the fruitless pursuit of money and how we need to stop making the accumulation of wealth our number one concern in life. Then there’s “Good Things Come to Those That Wait.” Over a straightforward acoustic guitar, harmonica, and light horn, he sings, “I’m tired of my country. I’m tired of watching people fall. And I’m tired of just sitting back when all our freedoms are blindly sold. But I know, I must be patient. Cause good things come to those that wait. But I’ve been waiting oh so long. All my days are gone. Well oh let me go quickly.” This blend of feelings tugs the listener in multiple directions, sometimes fun, sometimes angry, sometimes sad, and sometimes hopeful. Many songs are incredibly critical of American foreign policy, limited freedoms at home, and any organization that would try to gain power over the people, including the World Bank and cheating landlords as just two examples. All the lyrics are to the point, leaving no room for misinterpretation, although at times it’s hard to tell if he really is this much of a libertarian/anarchist or if he’s just playing into the standard folk tradition of distrust in authorities and big institutions.

Other songs like “Not Far From the Truth” say that materialism and the distraction of constant busyness and entertainment keeps us from looking to the things that are most important. And, while we are so distracted by these things, we are unable to see through the lies of newspapers, television, schools, banks, businesses, and modern culture in general, making us vulnerable to those who would take advantage of us.

After many harsh tracks of cultural criticism, political protest, and boozing it up, The Hitchhiker’s Son slows down and ends with two more somber tracks. On “Behind Me,” Orion brings in a female background vocal and talks about running from himself, his past, and God, in the end knowing that what he needed most was the truth. With a soft banjo and harmonica supplementing the acoustic guitars, “Warrant for My Arrest” ends the record on an unusually dark note, singing of running from the law and eventually rotting in jail for a crime he didn’t commit, perhaps written as a protest against a faulty criminal justice system.

Overall: With the raging disestablishment of the 1960s, Orion Walsh delivers yet another set of stinging critiques of modern American life, with a specific focus on both big business and big government. While there are hints of light at the end of the tunnel, most of the record is a despairing lament of the ills of our society, pointing out what he believes others are unwilling or unable to see. While this lack of any real hope could be a bad thing, the prophet Jeremiah shows us that sometimes what is most needed is to mourn over oppression and patterns of death, postponing the message of hope until people first come out of their blindness, slumber, and apathy to acknowledge that something is wrong. The music is as sharp as the lyrics; it is true folk music, working as a vehicle for a message or story, and in this case the message is one that will make us all uncomfortable, as we wonder how much we have bought into a system of lies that dominates mainstream culture.

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