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The Walkabouts: Reissues

1996 and 1997 Virgin reissues with bonus demo material.

Following a hiatus during which they were no longer distributed by the Sub Pop label, Seattle band The Walkabouts were quickly snapped up by Virgin Records in Europe. Despite their city origins, the group, led by singer-songwriter Chris Eckman and co-vocalist Carla Torgerson, had never had anything to do with grunge.

They were always closer to the likes of Nick Cave or Lambchop, specialising in a narrative strain of US country rock that was nonetheless soaked in jazz and blues history and mythology, sodium lit with reflections of the big city.

For the albums just reissued they were afforded the luxury of orchestral arrangements, which lend colour and epic breadth to songs like Rebecca Wild on 1996’s Devil’s Road (810), the strings blowing back and forth like dust clouds. There’s an intimacy, however, about Eckman and Torgeson’s vocal delivery, especially in the unison of Forgiveness Road, enabling you to step through the silver screen of their songwriting into their world.

Nighttown (810) is similar in tone and terrain, especially These Proud Streets and the slow, sombre, measured tread of Forever Gone. These are songs that sounded wonderfully weathered at the time and have become more so in the almost 20 years since they were laid down, revisited time and again live.

David Stubbs is a music, film, TV and football journalist. He has written for The Guardian, NME, The Wire and Uncut, and has written books on Jimi Hendrix, Eminem, Electronic Music and the footballer Charlie Nicholas.