It might seem odd that for as long as he’s been around, banjo player Cory Walker has just released his first solo album, School Project. Maybe he was just waiting to see how close to a perfect debut he could get for Mountain Fever Records.
Walker, currently playing with the IBMA Momentum Award winning band East Nash Grass, has spent time playing with Sierra Hull, Ricky Skaggs, The Dillards, and Kix Brooks. And he brought a pile of all-star pickers in for this project.
“Far Away Again” was penned by his brother Jarrod Walker and Christian Ward, the duo responsible for Billy Strings’s IBMA Song of the Year, “Red Daisy.” In addition to the fine picking and songwriting, Tim O’Brien sings the lead that he seems perfectly matched to.
There are a couple of Bob Dylan tunes on the album. “Nashville Skyline Rag” gives Walker a chance to showcase his five-string chops, while Rodney Dillard takes up guitar duties and lead vocals on “One Too Many Mornings.”
Walker reached back to the 1950s for another perfectly-matched cut as Americana star Sierra Ferrell does her take of Wilma Lee and Stoney Cooper’s “Tried to Ruin My Name.” A case could be made that this is the best song on the album and that’s a tough call.
Cory Walker and his dad wrote “Marlin’s Waltz,” one of two jazz-ish takes—the other being a cover of “Made in France.” It’s fitting that the project ends with the lively banjo classic, “Bugle Call Rag.”
Walker cut no corners in lining up guests. In addition to those already noted, others contributing their talents include guitiarists Jake Stargel and David Grier, mandolinists Harry Clark and Mike Compton, resophonic guitarists Gaven Largent and Herb Pederson, and bass player Jeff Picker.
School Project is sort of like lunch and recess put together—it’s a lot of fun. High marks will be universal for this one.