Randy Newman is an extremely talented composer, but he just can’t sing. Yeah, he’s had a few hits (“Short People” and “I Love L.A.” come to mind – painfully), but he’s got no vinegar, no spice, no verve in his vocal chords.
If Randy Newman could sing, he’d sound a little bit like Shand Walton, who is appearing at Riley’s Wednesday (9 p.m.) with his band, The All Amigos Club.
Walton is an enigma of the first water. His website, geocities.com/shandjw, links to a Buckminster Fuller site, an Eric Satie site, a site for surrealist artist Alonzo Smith, and Found magazine (devoted to random found messages and letters), as well as authors George Orwell, Robert Louis Stevenson and Jack London.
An intriguing link features pictures of fruit labels, the labels you find on pieces of produce. In Walton’s case, the piece of fruit he’s eating is more suitably labeled than he is. No category fully encompasses his talent or adequately describes him.
One writer called him “Credence Clearwater Revival with Norman Mailer handling the vocals” (the writer perhaps has never heard Norman Mailer speak, so let’s assume he was just grasping wildly for an apt simile). Walton’s version of “I’m Gonna Buy Me A Car,” from his second album, Fifteen Songs in Popular Keys ( 2007 Toil and Trouble), was included on indie darling Daniel Johnston’s website.
Walton rightfully claims Ruben Rodriguez and his Guadalajara Kings as one of his influences. Michael Molenda, editor of Guitar Player magazine, created an accolade just for him, the “Bravery on the Edge of Crazy” award. All of it put together make a cubist painting look like a Rand McNally roadmap. Shand Walton is just plain hard to sum up.
After fifteen years of being a one-man band (he can play a variety of instruments), The All Amigos Club is a slight departure from Walton’s more personally expressive solo days. He assures fans that his one-man band days are not gone, just put into storage for a while. Meanwhile, Walton and The All Amigos Club are fresh off a successful tour of Germany, Holland and Belgium, which they completed at the end of September.
Walton has been compared to the great John Fahey and the similarities are certainly there. Walton playing “Cedar Tree Blues” on a little YouTube video vibrates with Fahey’s unusual intensity. One half expects to see musical clouds envelope him and take him straight to heaven, like a guitar playing prophet Elijah.
In spite of all the heady talk of surrealists and biblical sages, Walton and The All Amigos Club play an infectious intermingling of Texas swing, blues, mariachi and rock. Other bands may have a similar mix, but the blend made by Shand Walton and the All Amigos Club is distinctly theirs. You can hear it for yourself at Riley’s tonight.Email | Print