BY JEFF ELBEL | FOR THE SUN-TIMES
Butch Walker’s career has contained more twists than your average pretzel, but each change in direction has pointed toward a new facet of prodigious talent. Earlier days included time with savvy but unsung headbangers SouthGang. After Nirvana and the grunge movement helped to remove metal from the pop charts, Walker and bandmates Jayce Fincher and Mitch “Slug” McLee transitioned to melodic alternative rock as the Marvelous 3.
After scoring a radio hit and MTV airplay with “Freak of the Week” from 1998’s “Hey! Album,” Marvelous 3 released a third and final album before Walker transitioned to solo and production work.
His solo material has flown somewhat below the public’s radar, but Walker’s songcraft and musicianship have been noticed within the industry. Walker has maintained steady demand as producer and songwriter for other artists. Clients and collaborators include Pink, Weezer, Taylor Swift, and Katy Perry. On the 2013 album “Save Rock and Roll” by local heroes Fall Out Boy, Walker co-wrote hit single “My Songs Know What You Did in the Dark (Light Em Up).”
Solo efforts include cheeky glam-rockers like 2006’s “Butch Walker and the Let’s Go Out Tonites.” 2011 single “The Spade” featured Walker’s band the Black Widows on “Summer of ‘89,” shadowing Bryan Adams’ “Summer of ‘69” and lamenting a misspent but dearly missed youth.
Sunday’s stop at the Vic Theatre, however, supports Walker’s most fragile, human and emotionally resonant work. “Afraid of Ghosts” was produced by alt-country icon Ryan Adams. The album trades guitar heroics for evocative folk and swaps wry vocal quips for relatable soul-searching. “Father’s Day” exposes open wounds following the loss of Walker’s father. “Bed on Fire” is a powerful picture of conflicted romance during trying times.Walker still spikes his songwriting with musical touchstones to his youth. “Chrissie Hynde” again longs for bygone days, this time nodding to the Pretenders’ “My City Was Gone.”
SPOTIFY playlist: http://bit.ly/WalkerSPOT