Doug Walters

Into the Light

(Street D)

From the warm splash of slow-sliding guitar licks, organ, and cymbals in the opening bars of “Let My Light Shine” to the oscillating piano and organ of the Randy Newman-esque closer “Stella,” local songwriter, guitarist, music writer, and vocalist Doug Walters‘ new solo album Into the Light reveals a different side of his usual rock ‘n’ roll spirit.

Unexpectedly polished and carefully-produced (thanks in large part to engineers Travis Banks and Jeff Leonard at Awendaw Green’s studio), it’s pretty ambitious stuff. These songs started out as basic sketches, chord progressions, rhythmic patterns, and lyrics in his own home studio. After spending years working as a sideman with long-running funk band the Secrets and various local rock bands, he’s clearly in full command of the music and mood here. Working from two years’ worth of demos (many of which were recorded with Brooke Scaggs on drums and vocals), plus a handful of gigs under the moniker the Regenerators, the core of material was obviously fine-tuned and ready to go when these sessions went down.

Lyrically, there’s an undertow of heartbreak, loneliness, and ultimately exultation. Musically, things seem to float in a dreamlike haze at a steady pace.

“You’re an Island” demonstrates the typical quiet/loud dynamic of the album, easing into things with an early-morning gleam and closing in a late-night power chord fade-out. That song, along with the hazy and grim “World of Pain” and the startlingly intense verses of the decidedly anti-shitty-drugs “Not Down” accentuate Walters’ almost growling low-toned whisper. Leonard Cohen and Tom Waits would be jealous.

Into the Light might be a deliberate attempt by Walters to distance himself from the gritty hard rock of Twisted Tales from Torture Town, the guitar-driven, joyfully pissed-off, shit-slingin’ 1o-song collection he issued last fall with Torture Town bandmate Jeff Caldwell. It fits nicely as a more personalized, introspective solo album, only a step or two aside from Torture Town’s heavy-handed style … or a less cocky “part two” of a yet-to-be-completed trilogy.

“I’m gonna find what I’m looking for and it won’t be long/I’m gonna learn how to finally sing a brand new song,” he sings in “Let My Light Shine.” It sounds like he already has.