Walter Salas-Humara is a musician who seems to have a lot of fun with his rich back catalogue. It’s not that he lives in or from his glorious past – he’s been releasing quite a bit of new material this decade, solo and with The Silos – but he continues revisiting his early material after the successful start with Work: Part One now, consequently, with Work: Part Two. Again, he focuses mainly on classic, early Silos albums from 1985-1990, broadening his spectrum to include songs from early- to mid-90ies‘ albums. Once again he re-imagines these songs in a contemporary acoustic alt.country/Americana sound.
Walter Salas-Humara! The name is as unique as the man it belongs to. More than 30 years ago this versatile artist first appeared on the scene as the mastermind of alt.rock pioneers The Silos. With him as songwriter, lead singer and guitarist at the helm, the band created sensitive, smart, hooky, American „indie pop goes alt.country“ rock of the highest order. The 90s, however, were a decade of restlessness and experimentation. Changing places between New York, L.A. and the vibrant Austin, TX scene, the band repeatedly changed personnel and direction. They found their form again after the turn of the millennium in a series of albums for Blue Rose Records between 2001 and 2006 – and then in 2011 with the fabulous Florizona. Recently, Blue Rose released Curve And Shake, Salas-Humara’s first solo outing after 18 years. It was followed by the aforementioned Work: Part One in March 2016 and Explodes And Disappears just two months later. With this burst of releases, Walter Salas-Humara has cemented his status as an important and relevant independent musician and darling of the alt.Americana/No Depression scene.
Like Part One, Work: Part Two presents a homogenous, organic, mature production, all of one piece. In close collaboration with renowned Texan multi-instrumentalist and producer Rich Brotherton, Walter Salas-Humara has created the next highlight in his storied recording career. Brotherton is one of Austin’s local treasures, the go-to guy for songwriters looking for a sympathetic sidekick with studio know-how and musical finesse. He has worked with – among others – Bruce & Charlie Robison, Robert Earl Keen, Mary Gauthier, Eliza Gilkyson, Matt Harlan. This time he contributes not only acoustic guitar but also mandolin, dobro, zither and harmony vocals. The multi-talented Jonathan Rundmann from Minneapolis adds accordion, piano and harmonium. Mary Rowell, a good friend from earlier Silos days, plays violin and viola. Brotherton’s wife Kathy (piano) and daughter Maddy (violin), the lovely Amy Allison’s bittersweet voice and celtic-Texan musician EJ Jones’s flute also pop up.
Work: Part Two focuses on the Silos phase between 1985 and 1994. There was About Her Steps, the mini-LP debut from 1985, followed by Cuba (1987), a very strong album which left a big mark on the No Depression-influenced Americana genre. Then came the self-titled Silos, Salas-Humara’s only major label release (on RCA). The following albums, Hasta La Victoria (92) and Diablo (aka Susan Across The Ocean in the US, 94) also were strong outings. Thus, the album presents 10 first-rate Silos classics in new versions.
‚Find A Way‘, one of three songs from Hasta La Victoria with its intricate twists, a chamber-music-type arrangement and a kinship with R.E.M.’s ‚A Few Hundred Thank You’s‘ is one of the oldest songs on the album. It boasts exquisite mandolin picking, accentuated guitar strumming and great harmony vocals. The easy uptempo folk of ‚My Big Car‘ is dominated by accordion accompaniment and an improvised acoustic guitar part in the middle. ‚The Only Story I Tell‘ is a love song with a campfire atmosphere, beautiful dobro and multi-part harmonies. The curt acoustic rocker ‚Everything Falls Away‘, originally on Cuba, is driven by a killer chorus and the twin guitar jam of Salas-Humara and Brotherton. ‚The Sounds Next Door‘ with a wall of sound created by accordion and a number of strummy guitars is the only song off Diablo.
‚Here’s To You‘ boasts fantastic, beautifully sung melodies and surprises with EJ Jones’s short outro flute solo. In ‚Start The Clock‘ Salas-Humara sings – accompanied by Amy Allison and an opulent string arrangement – about the movement of time and place, one of his favorite topics. And, clearly, there has to be a „woman song“ on a Salas-Humara record. ‚Picture Of Helen‘ follows in the tradition of ‚Caroline‘, ‚Susan‘, ‚Margaret‘ and others and is driven by fine acoustic guitar picking and piano.
Harmonium, strings and guitar provide a chamber music ambience for the finale. ‚Miles Away‘, the opener of Hasta La Victoria, closes Work: Part Two, another fantastic outing from Walter Salas-Humara. He has not yet announced whether there will be a third part. One can only hope he and Rich Brotherton get together again to revisit more of the riches the Silos catalogue has to offer on Work: Part Three.