Wednesday, October 14, 1998

Cross-Country Connections

Posted By on Wed, Oct 14, 1998 at 12:00 AM

Walter Salas-Humara is a laconic singer-songwriter with roots and relationships in every major city between New York and Los Angeles, while holding out an extra-special consideration for the fine folks of Austin, Texas. A founding member of the Vulgar Boatmen and the Setters (with Alejandro Escovedo) as well as the Silos, Salas-Humara has been making good records since the mid-'80s.

On Heater, he surrounds himself with an able-bodied troupe of veteran music makers and comes up with a first-class collection of distinctive, mid-tempo rock tunes. As a singer, his voice is a pleasant, engaging instrument that provides an understated allure to the album's proceedings. As a songwriter, Salas-Humara is a quirky, understated artist who knows how to craft a compelling story replete with hooks, chorus and a decent melody.

While not exactly a stereotypical Americana artist, Walter does manage to evoke images of the heartland and is not afraid to back things up with ringing electric guitars and violins as well as his folksy, insightful observations.

On "Northern Lights" and "Front Porch," he mixes thoughtful metaphors with straightforward storytelling to create a realistic world of emotional encounters and plaintive introspection. On "Stoplight," Walter and the band kick things up a notch for a rocking ride through Anytown, USA.

There's a dry, wry element to Heater and the album rarely overwhelms you with its charming attributes. Instead, Salas-Humara draws the listener into his singular world view with a soft-spoken lyricism and the simple pleasures of song.

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