The Walkabouts – Cataract: #351 of best 1,000 albums ever!

So why is The Walkabouts’ Cataract on this best 1,000 albums ever thing?

I’ve probably talked about this before somewhere in the 650* articles I’ve written to date as part of my Epic Quest to compile the best 1,000 albums ever, but I owned this pretty great compilation CD back in the day called The Grunge Years, which was released by the Seattle-based label, Sub Pop.

* This is literally the 650th article – we’ve got 350 to go y’all, the BEST 350 if you can dig.

The title, The Grunge Years, is meant to be ironic in a Maximum Gen X kind of way, which is emphasized by the cover art: it features these two super corporate-looking white dudes in suits. They’re in the back of a car, and one guy is talking on a very early ‘90s cell phone while typing on a very early ‘90s (kind of) laptop computer that’s really more like an electronic typewriter-type thing.

Anyway, the music on The Grunge Years shows off Sub Pop’s remarkable lineup of talent, including Nirvana (“Dive,” off of Incesticide), L7 (“Shove,” one of the great band’s very best), Beat Happening (“Read Head Walking,” which I absolutely adore), Babes in Toyland (the ferocious “House”), and also includes tracks from both Screaming Trees (“Change Has Come”) and Mark Lanegan (“Ugly Sunday”).

And it also introduced me to The Walkabouts by way of the magical number, “Long Black Veil.”

“Long Black Veil” is a country standard originally recorded by Lefty Frizzell back in 1959. It’s been covered by a huge array of bands and artists over the years, ranging from Burl Ives to Johnny Cash to The Band to Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds.

Here’s what “Long Black Veil” is about, via Wikipedia:

It is told from the point of view of a man falsely accused of murder and executed. He refuses to provide an alibi, since on the night of the murder he was having an extramarital affair with his best friend’s wife, and would rather die and take their secret to his grave than admit the truth. The chorus describes the woman’s mourning visits to his gravesite, wearing a long black veil and enduring a wailing wind.

The Walkabouts’ version of “Long Black Veil” is rocking, driving, strangely alluring, and super catchy indie rock. I can listen to it endlessly. The jangly guitar chord changes are just perfect, and the blend of vocals from Carla Torgerson and Chris Eckman is just dynamite.

The Walkabouts have a facility for unusual yet extremely compelling and catchy melodies. “Hell’s Soup Kitchen” makes me also realize that The Walkabouts leverage a brand of alt country that leans mostly toward the rock side, with just the right flavoring of country and roots rock influences for my particular tastes.

“Whiskey Xxx” bumps up the tempo and adds just a shade of late ‘80s pop into the mix, which works delightfully.

“Smokestack” is yet another super strong track. There’s something about it that makes me think that Frank Black would make fine work of covering this one as a contemporary alt rocker.

Some stats & info about The Walkabouts – Cataract

  • What kind of musical stylings does this album represent? Rock Music, Seattle Bands, Indie Rock, Alt Country, Roots Rock
  • Rolling Stone’s greatest 500 albums ranking – not ranked!
  • All Music’s rating – 3 out of 5 stars
  • When was Cataract released? 1989
  • My ranking, the one you’re reading right now – #351 out of 1,000

The Walkabouts’ Cataract on Spotify

A lyrical snippet from The Walkabouts’ Cataract that’s evocative of the album in some way, maybe

Now tell who’s that clown who pulled this veil on down.

What does the “best 1,000 albums ever” mean and why are you doing this?

Yeah, I know it’s audacious, a little crazy (okay, maybe a lot cray cray), bordering on criminal nerdery.

But here’s what it’s NOT: a definitive list of the Greatest Albums of All-Time. This is 100% my own personal super biased, incredibly subjective review of what my top 1,000 albums are, ranked in painstaking order over the course of doing research for nearly a year, Rob from High Fidelity style. Find out more about why I embarked on a best 1,000 albums ever project.