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Bradley Walker

Highway of Dreams – 2006 (Rounder)

Reviewed by John Lupton

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CDs by Bradley Walker

Alabama native Bradley Walker credits Merle Haggard as one of his major influences and inspirations, but it's fitting that one of the standout tracks on this solo debut is a cover of Lefty Frizzell's "I Never Go Around Mirrors." Though he doesn't sound quite exactly like Frizzell - Mark Chesnutt may be a closer contemporary comparison - Walker's phrasing and delivery are very much in the "Lefty" mold. With a rich, flexible baritone that straddles bluegrass and classic country (and any number of points in between), Walker easily draws and holds attention on all dozen tracks.

With Carl Jackson as producer, "Highway of Dreams" is nicely distributed between high-energy bluegrass (""Should've Took That Train", "Payin' Your Dues") and slow country ballads ("Lost At Sea", "He Carried Her Memory"), and Walker benefits throughout from a first-rate supporting cast that includes Jackson, Vince Gill and an exquisite trio of female harmonizers in Cia Cherryholmes, Sonya Isaacs and Alecia Nugent.

What you won't realize from listening to this (and if you've never seen Walker in one of his Opry or other stage appearances) is that he was born with muscular dystrophy and has been wheelchair-bound all 27 years of his life. A remarkable story, and an equally remarkable talent.