photo: Hilary Harris
“Dark, haunting, and elegiac: The Walkabouts sprung forth from the storytelling traditions of American roots music and the kinetic excitement of rock & roll.”
- Jason Ankeny, All Music Guide
Never a standard rock band, The Walkabouts defied genres as they seamlessly fused rock, post-punk, country and folk to reveal a rich and expansive sound. Channeling Neil Young, Nick Cave and Hank Williams, to name a few influences, the band took their inspiration and churned out original and evocative outsider epics. The rootsy, country twang in singer Carla Torgerson’s impassioned vocals is unlike anyone else, especially considering what the trends were when the band was at its peak in the mid-nineties. Backed by the water tight and simultaneously loose rhythm section of Michael Wells on bass and Terri Moeller Pearson on drums, their songs are lushly orchestrated with strings, piano, organ (Glenn Slater), harmonica (Wells), mandolin, violin and accordion, to name a handful of instruments in their vast repertoire.
The Walkabouts self-released their first EP titled 22 Disasters in 1985, and their first LP See Beautiful Rattlesnake Gardens was put out by Seattle's PopLlama Records in 1988. The band was then signed to Sub Pop Records. 1989's classic Rag and Bone was their first album on the label, and although they never reached widespread audiences like other groups on Sub Pop, Walkabouts bandleader Chris Eckman's sophisticated arrangements and songwriting arguably set the template for Sub Pop's folk-rock bands that followed.
It’s difficult to pick a favorite, but in the 1990s, they hit their apex and issued a series of indispensable albums: New West Motel (1993), Setting the Woods on Fire (1994), Devil's Road (1995) and Nighttown (1997). These records saw their sound further developing onto a cinematic scale as they hit a remarkable stride. Their last studio album to date, Travels in the Dustland (2011), saw the band continuing the impressive heights that were maintained since their early years with hardly a misstep in between.
Great artists who create timeless music are often under the radar and The Walkabouts rank among the best of them.
- Andrew Boe, 2019
"The Walkabouts were really projecting a music of the future: a crafty blend of pop, rock, and soul that is now at the heart of a new popular movement in music."
- KEXP Blog
Over the years the most consistent lineup of The Walkabouts was:
Carla Torgerson - vocals, guitars & cello (Chris & Carla, solo)
Chris Eckman - songwriter, vocals, guitars & keyboards (solo, Dirt Music, The Frictions, The Strange, Chris & Carla, L/O/N/G, Distance Light & Sky)
Michael Wells - bass & harmonica (The Sad Sad Songs, Glimmer, Dodi)
Glenn Slater - keyboards (Melting Fish, Wellwater Conspiracy)
Additional core members included the band's original rhythm section of Grant Eckman (drums) and Curt Eckman (bass), as well as multi-instrumentalist Bruce Wirth, guitarist Paul Austin, bass players John Baker Saunders, Fred Chalenor and Joe Skyward, and drummer Brian Young.