Sometimes concept albums can be hard to pull off. It takes talent to pull off an entire album that’s cohesive without falling into a trap of repetition or grasping at straws to come up with ideas, and creating a half-baked, uneven product in the process. Dolly Shine avoids this completely on their new album, Walkabout, and crafts a project that is entertaining while intricately telling the story of a man and his adventures.
What’s most striking about the album is the seamless blend of southern rock and traditional, Texas-influenced country. While some artists choose to tackle the music with heavy handed influence towards stadium rock, the evident but not dominating integration of southern rock is executed to near perfection. This isn’t an album that feels like southern rock marketed as country; it feels like a legitimate mix of two musical styles to construct a strong final outcome.
It’s not just the production that makes Walkabout work, however. The songwriting is strong in its storytelling and cohesion, as the story is well-described while flowing well from one track to the next (as a concept album should). The opening track, “Blackbird,” serves as a particularly good example of this, as it’s not only effective within itself, but in serving as the album’s starting point. Just as the production remains gritty with a modern touch, some songs shine in their simplicity, others tackle some darker material, such as the murder story of “Snakeskin Boots” or even the encounter of an old love in arguably the album’s strongest track, “Come out Swingin.'” Walkabout is a real album full of real life stories, which is what makes it such a captivating and strong listen.
While the entire project works on all cylinders, what arguably stands out as its strongest pillar is the vocals of lead singer Zack McGinn. What are already strong compositions come to life in the hands of McGinn, who is not only a more than proficient technical vocalist, but an impeccable storyteller who in listening to him, can’t help but make you believe each recording was a first hand experience.
Walkabout is an album that is the whole package: well produced, well written, well sung, and undeniably country. It is both a textbook example of how concept albums should work, as well as how to properly experiment and integrate other genres. Dolly Shine is the real deal, and ones to watch not only on the Texas music scene, but across all fields of country music. This is a strong album that comes highly recommended for fans of traditional and mainstream country, the Texas scene, and southern rock. Fantastic stuff.