"A bitter memory can make a beautiful song," Chris Wall sings on the final track of this, his sixth album, and that's as good a parsing of his songcraft here as any. Bittersweet, remorseful and rueful also find a place, whether Wall's writing about love gone bad ("Ten Cents on the Dollar"), gone away ("Still in the Dark") or never showing up ("Old Broken Record"); even when it does ("Love Is Just a Place") the arrival is hard-won, full of doubt as much as hope.
Those same sentiments color Wall's ruminations on the life and travails of the journeyman musician - the album's second loose theme - in "Hank Williams' Cadillac" (one of two songs where he's backed by Dale Watson and his Lone Stars) and "Five Piece Band." Alongside those explorations, Wall takes the time to mark the passing of a musical hero with "Outlaw Blues," a fine tribute to Waylon Jennings that pays homage not only lyrically but in Kenny Grime's Waylon-style guitar and Wall's singing.
There's a bit less honky tonk, a bit more folky cowboy fare here compared to his previous efforts; what remains constant are the strength of Wall's songs and his supple baritone bringing them to life.