Ban Hatton released his second album two months ago; it's called 'Walls'. Stylistically, Hatton jumps between alt country and folk music, incorporating hints of cowpunk into his music. The production values on 'Walls' are good, but eschew the highly-refined and polished values often associated with pop music. Hatton's voice and lyrics are what makes the album worth listening to.
Vocally, Hatton sounds like Bob Dylan singing in a helium filled room. In other words, Hatton's voice is higher-pitched and more nasal than Dylan's, but it works. Even his phrasing is Dylan-esque and, upon first listening, he comes across as a Dylan wannabe. Nevertheless, his voice is different enough to set him apart. Of course, there are legions of people who believe Dylan can't sing. Anyone who feels that way should pass on 'Walls'.
'Walls' contains ten tracks that vary from alt country to Americana to folk. 'Backed By The River' establishes the album's tone. An alt country tune that ventures into alt rock territory, with an upbeat melody, Hatton's voice sounds as if it was recorded with inferior equipment, which gives it a raw, vintage quality. The second track, 'Brothers', begins with a harmonica intro and then segues into an alt country melody that is simple, but sounds more layered than it actually is.
'Going Home', another alt country number, resonates of Tom Petty and Bob Dylan, as if Dylan decided to cover one of Petty's songs. The fourth track is the best track on the album. Called 'Plastic Dreams', it rides an upbeat, alt country melody, while the lyrics speak eloquently about hope: "These plastic dreams/they help me get some sleep at night."
Speaking of lyrics, Hatton certainly has a gift. His lyrics are not only poetic, but they are memorable, causing the listener to pause and reflect on their meaning. And although not as articulate or expressive as Dylan, Hatton's lyrics are a close second.
'I Feel Fine' teeters between folk and alt country. An acoustic song, it resembles Dylan in the 1960s. The last three songs on the album, 'Roanoke', 'Coast To Coast' and 'Wish I Had The Sense' are slower folk songs. And while they're not bad, they seem vaguely out of place, probably because Hatton's strength is alt country rather than folk. In fact, the closer he comes to alt rock, the better Hatton sounds.
Fundamentally, 'Walls' is a good album with strong melodies and excellent lyrics. More alt country or, perhaps three or four alt rock songs, would elevate it to great. Nevertheless, Ban Hatton is a singer/songwriter to keep tabs on; his next effort may be the one that makes him a star.