The Lineup

Lonnie Walker

Raleigh, NC

Lonnie Walker frontman Brian Corum’s lyrics are a tangled torrent of stream-of-consciousness observations whose opacity defies easy translation. But, to borrow a title from one of the band’s intriguing blends of guitar-centric roots and indie fare, it somehow “Feels Like Right,” and what began as a solo vehicle has morphed into a great Raleigh-based quintet renowned for the kind of joyfully sloppy throw-downs critical to any festival experience. 

Corum can take a twangy life-on-the-road trope like the one underpinning “Compass Comforts”—from his band’s sparkling 2009 debut These Times Old Times—and chronicle the emotional toll without losing sight of the youthful elan that so many roots rockers exclude just to make their added-gravitas point. The band drives the thrumming beat into a twitchy, “what town is this again?” shuffle while Corum delivers an adenoidal, near-rap litany of city names and images that make up an “Americana panorama” fresh with new ideas. A similar restlessness pervades most of their songs, turning a slow love-sick blues like “Back Home Inside With You” into a sputtering garage howler, and imbuing the folkie lament “Ships” with a plank-walking marching beat, as if the Decembrists had been born a bar band. All that nervous energy comes together in album-centerpiece “Summertime,” whose double-time cascade of words and music features Corum’s oddball ruminations on personal hygiene and ’80s nostalgia, and a bridge of shout-out-loud, Neutral Milk Hotel urgency. 

This is what makes Lonnie Walker more memorable than their by-the-numbers roots peers—an enthusiastic compulsion to blend eras and blur edges both musical and lyrical. Theirs is an exuberance that doesn’t sacrifice levity for depth, either. Like the band’s take on the traditional music at its core, looking back is a springboard forward, as “Summertime” suggests: “Though it is no longer the ’80s, you know I wish I could go back/ Back to being born again and have a second chance at life/ And then I would do the exact same thing because I like to do things twice.” —John Schacht