Photo by Hilary Harris
Legendary Seattle group The Walkabouts certainly should not need an introduction. From 1984 to 2011, they released some of the best and most unique albums that have come out of the Pacific Northwest.
The Walkabouts self-released their first EP, 22 Disasters, in 1985, and their first LP See Beautiful Rattlesnake Gardens was released by Seattle's PopLlama Records in 1988. The band was then signed to the esteemed Sub Pop Records. 1989's classic Rag and Bone was their first album on the label, and although they never reached widespread audiences like other groups on Sub Pop, Walkabouts bandleader Chris Eckman's sophisticated arrangements and brilliant songwriting arguably set the template for Sub Pop's folk-rock bands that followed.
Never a standard rock band, The Walkabouts defy genres as they seamlessly fuse rock, country and folk to reveal a rich and expansive sound. Channeling Neil Young, Nick Cave and Hank Williams, to name a few influences, The Walkabouts took their inspiration and churned out original and evocative outsider epics. The rootsy, country twang in singer Carla Torgerson’s impassioned vocals is unlike anyone else, especially considering what the trends were at the time. Backed by the water tight and simultaneously loose rhythm section of Michael Wells on bass and Terri Moeller on drums, their songs are lushly orchestrated with strings, piano, organ (Glenn Slater), harmonica (Wells), mandolin, violin and accordion, to name a handful of instruments in their vast repertoire.
It’s difficult to pick a favorite, but in the 1990s, they hit their apex and issued a series of indispensable albums: New West Motel (1993), Setting the Woods on Fire (1994) and Devil's Road (1995). These records saw their sound further developing onto a cinematic scale as they hit a remarkable stride. Their last studio album to date, Travels in the Dustland (2011), saw the band continuing the impressive heights that were maintained since their early years with hardly a misstep in between.
Great artists who create timeless music are often under the radar and The Walkabouts rank among the best of them.
- Andrew Boe, 2019
Over the years the most consistent lineup of The Walkabouts was:
Chris Eckman - songwriting, vocals & guitar (Solo, Dirt Music, The Frictions, The Strange, Chris & Carla, L/O/N/G, Distance Light & Sky)
Glenn Slater - keyboards (Melting Fish)