Bart Walker
New studio album Waiting On Daylight – released following sold-out European tour — pairs the young guitar virtuoso with producer Jim Gaines and showcases Walker’s songwriting.

Bart Walker’s new, rocket-fueled album Waiting On Daylight is more than an explosive collection of 11 songs that ride the cutting edge of blues and rock. It’s also a bridge that unites the best in both genres and aims to connect a new audience to the deepest roots of American music.

The young six-string slinger — winner of the 2012 International Blues Challenge’s prestigious Best Guitarist award — sees the disc as fulfilling a dream that’s helped drive his course as an artist from bluegrass prodigy to MVP sideman to globe-trotting bandleader.

“The songs have deep grooves, great hooks and honest stories, and all of that’s wrapped in a sound that goes beyond the blues to a place where more than just blues fans can relate to the music,” he explains. “But the blues is where the heart of all the music I love lies, and I’m hoping Waiting On Daylight can lead people who love rock and songwriting back into the blues. For years it’s been my dream that I can play a role in making the blues popular again.”

From the opening buttery slide guitar of “It’s All Good,” it’s obvious that Walker is on the right path. Using his full-blooded guitar sound and powerhouse voice as constant guide, each song follows its own instantly appealing rhythmic spine. “Black Clouds” grows from a bass groove and a swell of feedback to a bare-knuckled tune about reckoning. And “Girl You Bad” praises his new bride Natasha Jacobs Walker over a deep shuffle with Mississippi roots and stratospheric slide guitar. Likewise “Gotta Be You” — a sequel of sorts to the latter number — is a love note that percolates to a Texas blues beat packed with plenty of rock ‘n’ roll drive and arcing single-note guitar breaks, plus a juggernaut wah-wah soaked solo that recalls both Jimi Hendrix’s and Stevie Ray Vaughan’s jolting use of the effect.

Waiting On Daylight’s big, beefy and beautiful guitar sound is part of an aural conspiracy Walker and producer Jim Gaines masterminded in Gaines’ Memphis studio. To achieve the boldest guitar tones possible, they chained together an array of a half-dozen classic and modern amps — Marshalls, Fenders, Category 5s and others — and Walker played through them all simultaneously.

“That allowed me to get the best sonic characteristics of all of the amps and tubes and speakers and cabinet sizes together in the sound of my own guitars,” Walker explains.

But Walker’s super-heated playing is always tempered by the album’s pervasive sense of soul, which comes especially to the fore in the title track, co-written by Walker and veteran Nashville-via-Texas songsmith Gary Nicholson. The song “Waiting On Daylight” also addresses a recent, pivotal period in Walker’s personal life. Last year he was able to sidestep the excesses of drug and alcohol abuse, which allowed him to bring a sharper focus to his music, his marriage and his future — which, as the song’s title implies, has been opening up before him.

That process of “seeing daylight” began with the release of Walker’s previous critically heralded debut Who I Am and his performances in the 2012 International Blues Competition in Memphis. The competition, sponsored by the Blues Foundation, features blues-based artists from across the globe vying for top honors in the band and solo/duo categories. Representing Nashville, the Bart Walker Band came in second and Walker himself took the top guitar title and was awarded an ES-335 model from the Gibson Custom Shop and a state-of-the-art Category 5 amplifier — both of which appear on Waiting On Daylight.

During the contest hard-core blues fans in attendance from all over the world were exposed to Walker’s musical prowess. One of them, label owner Thomas Ruff, signed Walker to his first record contract and put him in the studio with Gaines, whose resume includes sessions with Huey Lewis, Buddy Guy, George Thorogood, Santana, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Steve Miller, John Lee Hooker and many, many more.

Walker arrived prepared, with double the songs necessary to make the album and his chops honed by more than 300 concerts in 2012 alone.