Stay Gold, Ponyboy

This week has been so draining.

After a great trip to New York where I got to go to FlameCon and NXT Takeover Brooklyn II, I caught a cold, Finn Bálor got injured and will be out for six months, and I got let go from my miserable retail job, which is relieving and frustrating all at once. It’s enough to keep a girl down for a while.

Which is why the notification that the new Butch Walker album Stay Gold was in my iTunes at 11:30 last night was a relieving sight.

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It’s something that a lot of people forget about with me in the past few years (despite my coverage of him), but Butch Walker has been my main guy for exactly ten years this summer. Ever since the summer he released The Rise and Fall of Butch Walker and the Let’s-Go-Out-Tonites!, I’ve been following my fellow Cartersville native’s career through the roughest points of my life as well as his. Over those past ten years, I’ve had a lot of great memories and moments that took place in concert venues, record stores, and even my own home. Even the one who broke my heart couldn’t take Butch Walker away from me, despite the fact that’s a lot of what our relationship was built on.

Afraid of Ghosts is and was a hard album, and for good reason. Dealing directly with the death of his father, Afraid of Ghosts was cathartic, contemplative, painfully honest and sad. At the time, it was hard to imagine how one could come back from it. Been there, done that, wrote a story about it that’s coming out in October.

But as the old saying goes, it’s always the darkest before the dawn and if Afraid of Ghosts was the cold and frightening dark, Stay Gold is the dawn, shimmering and bright.

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Inspired by SE Hinton’s The Outsiders and growing up around misfit kids in a small town, Stay Gold is a return to form for Butch Walker. There’s still a lingering loss around the edges of the record, but it’s not about that. Instead, it’s about moving on and celebrating life. How even in uncertainty, there’s still hope to be had. Just listen to the heart wrenching ‘Descending’ and ‘Record Store’ to see what I mean.

Butch is a natural storyteller, that has always been true. I’ve lost count of the numerous characters he’s slipped into over the years, and how much of the story he tells is him or someone else. However, even with all of that, there’s a lot of truth in Stay Gold. About being at a point in your life where you’re ready to let go of pain and move on. ‘Irish Exit,’ another great Butch Walker Barnburner, is a great example of this. It’s a fun track that I hope to witness live at some point (I missed this tour for Takeover), but it’s also about being able to walk away from bullshit. It’s a strange lesson from a song that’s about drinking, but it works. It actually feels like a continuation of his self-released Christmas song ‘Santa’Self’ from last year in that regard.

Also, can we talk about those seamless transitions from ‘Wilder in the Heart’ to ‘Ludlow Expectations’ and ‘Mexican Coke’ to ‘Can We Just Not Talk About Last Night’? Between that and the themes in ‘Stay Gold’ and ‘Record Store,’ it feels like this is the closest I’ve seen Butch get to a concept album. I guess it could be in some ways with the Hinton influence, but maybe I should contribute more of that to the small town feeling that prevails over the album. There are plenty of albums in Butch’s catalog that are Atlanta and sometimes Nashville, but this one feels so very Cartersville.

Stay Gold is a hopeful album coming out of darkness. It’s an album that reminds that happiness can be achieved again after sadness and sometimes, that comes from getting back to your roots or being able to walk away from the things that hurt you. Once again, Butch Walker comes in in the clutch, telling me what I need to hear and delivering a great album that matches it too. I’m still sad I missed this tour, but there’s adventures to be had out there too. If there’s one thing to take away from this album, it’s that there’s life out there to be had and to shy away from it because of other reasons is the true loss.

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