The cover image of Sense The World, the latest from Walt Cronin & the Gousters, belies the music just behind that jacket. With the photo, a close-up of a butterfly (or moth?) resting on an outstretched finger, a deep blue sky and tree branches in the background, you’d be forgiven for expecting George Winston-esque nature and seasonal-themed piano suites. In reality, Cronin and his band churn through a baker’s dozen of solid Americana/roots music that segues seamlessly into country and folk, all delivered with an impressive baritone bringing to mind Kris Kristofferson and Leonard Cohen.
Surprisingly, Cronin didn’t start writing songs until he was 49, around the time many musicians start looking for the exit, and after a steady clip of releases, this album took eight years to complete. Sense The World, his fifth record finds him tackling a broad range of topics, from death (“We Go On”) and lost love (“Vagabond”) to life after Vietnam (“Way Back Home”). Cronin’s biggest strength, even more so than that distinctive voice, is his knack for writing great lyrics. The most up-tempo track on the album, “All These Things,” sounds like a long lost Jerry Jeff Walker or Bobbie Bare song.
While there are some powerful moments on the record, like the somber “Tumble Me Down” and “Once Again,” a song that is deceptively simple but brimming with clever lyrics, there are also several missteps here that fail to live up to the promise of other tracks; moments when the lush instrumentation seems to overshadow Cronin’s powerful lyrics. But those moments are not enough to drag down an otherwise remarkable album, an impressive entry into Cronin’s growing cannon. Eight years in the making, but worth the wait.
John B Moore (The Daily Ripple)