Now Playing: Wayne Willingham’s ‘Temptation Row’ 

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Willingham
Image courtesy of Wayne Willingham



Wayne Willingham is prepping for the release of a new album. It’s titled Temptation Row and has a drop date of May 13th, 2022. But first, for those of you not yet familiar with the artist in question, a bit o’ background.

Wayne Willingham

Willingham
Image courtesy of YouTube

Wayne Willingham is an American singer-songwriter and musician. Willingham spent 26 years as a full-time performer then gave it up for a day job. According to a recent email, 19 years later, “someone handed him a guitar” and his career in music began anew

Ah, but this time, he chose to forgo performing in cover bands in dive bars that ruled his younger days and decided to do his own thing. His official website reports that his rockin’ resume includes four previous platters. More recently he has chosen to focus on performing his own material in “listening rooms and house concerts” in order to connect “with the audience in a completely new and refreshing way.”      

Signature Sound

Texas-based James Wayne Willingham’s signature sound is a blend of music genres including Americana and folk.  His sources of inspiration include John Denver, Gordon Lightfoot, Joni Mitchell, and Paul Simon.

Temptation Row

Temptation Row is an eight-track album of mainly original material. Willingham leads the way on guitars and vocals. He is backed by Cliff Stegall on bass and background vocals, and Caleb Barnett on drums.

Track by Track

The album opens on “Runnin’ Away.” It’s the first of his original songs on relationship issues. The song is strong enough to draw listeners in but only foreshadows what al is to come.

The second selection is “Dancing With Him.” Willingham co-wrote this one with John Terry. This is an early fan favorite that fits in well with the familiar theme of emotional issues. It features Andy Wood on the mandolin.

The next number is the reflective “Shoulda Coulda Woulda.” It’s an early fave of the critics. It’s a song about choices and regrets.

“Hot Rod” is a tuneful tribute to his younger brother. According to a recent email, he lost his brother “over the pandemic”, and represents a songful sense of closure that any listener who “has lost a loved one will be able to relate to.” It makes a big difference that Willingham is one of those knowledgeable songwriters who understands you can write a song about a lost loved one without making the music maudlin or too slow.  

“Cresson Train” follows here. While the subject changes, Willingham’s signature sound remains welcomingly consistent and recognizable. This is a friendly little travelin’ tune that may be overlooked due to its placement.    

The sixth selection is “The Lady.” Despite perhaps being overshadowed by the piece it precedes, it is a pretty piece that offers yet another example of Willingham’s abilities. Jared Sullivan guests on cello.

The soundtrack-ready title track “Temptation Row” garners “critic’s choice” here. It’s the disc’s debut single and rightly so. While some say this exceptional song concerns “the seedier side of every town in America”, in a sense, it could apply to almost any place in the world.

The album endnote is a noteworthy cover of Leonard Cohen’s song “Suzanne.” First performed by Joni Mitchell in 1966 the same year it was written, this cover cut on an album of otherwise original material provides a welcome sense of familiarity and creates a common connection between the performer and the audience.  

Overall… 

Overall, this disc is an apt intro to Willingham’s original, heartfelt material and his strengths as a solo performer and singer-songwriter. It is a group of thoughtful, oft’times universal tracks meant to make his audience feel and think about various life experiences. So check out Wayne Willingham’s Temptation Row and you might find yourself “Dancing With Him.”