If you don’t know the name Joshua Ray Walker yet, you’re about to. Since first building some buzz in country music circles with his debut, Wish You Were Here, the Dallas singer-songwriter has won fans all around the world and earned high praise from some of music’s most renowned publications. In 2020, Walker’s sophomore album, Glad You Made It, garnered even more acclaim, and last year’s outstanding follow-up, See You Next Time, currently finds the up-and-coming country talent standing at the precipice of mainstream notoriety.

Just days after performing on The Tonight Show, Walker took the stage at Shank Hall, where he’d give a few dozen folks congregated in the East Side venue one hell of a show and, in all likelihood, a great story about seeing the rising star’s first Milwaukee outing. Before Walker and his backing band played, opener Andrew Hibbard started the show in style. Donning a Miller High Life cap and taking sips of “its little sister” (a.k.a. Miller Lite) between songs, the Hamilton, Ohio-born songwriter kicked things off with a short-but-sweet set that was rife in a winning mix of top-notch guitar and harmonica playing, great singing and yodeling, and some lighthearted banter.

Roughly 15 minutes after Hibbard departed, Walker and a trio of backing musicians made their way to the Shank Hall stage where they delighted the crowd of diehards with more than 20 songs that traversed his sturdy three-album catalog. The nearly 90-minute headlining performance started on a relaxed note, as Walker showcased his world-class vocal chops on slow-rolling Glad You Made It cut, “Loving County,” before chasing it with decidedly more uptempo “Bronco Billy’s” that featured astounding lap steel accompaniment and a glimpse of Walker’s exceptional guitar skills.

From there, the airtight quartet ventured back to the Wish You Were Here era, playing three consecutive songs from the debut album in a run that included bleary bar room ballad “Trouble” and sad, story-driven songs in the form of “Working Girl” and “Lot Lizard.” Over the course of the show, Walker and his backing band would touch material from all three of his albums and made sure to alternate between captivating and emotional tracks to lively, toe-tapping tunes.

In the midst of doing service to Wish You Were Here, Glad You Made It, and See You Next Time, Walker also worked in an unexpected and altogether outstanding cover of “Hello” by Lionel Richie. Between songs, the headliner also talked about his family, the process of splitting co-writing royalty percentages with his girlfriend, and he dedicated his song “Canyon” to State Fair Records co-founder Trey Johnson, who passed away unexpectedly last week. In the process of treating Shank Hall to album-caliber renditions of his songs, Walker seemed gracious and appreciative of the crowd he said was “rowdy in all the right places and quiet in all the right places.”

Before calling it a night, Walker made sure to play his Jimmy Fallon-approved single, “Sexy After Dark,” and a couple deep cuts—”D.B. Cooper” and “Burn It”—as the show neared its end. After that late-set trinity, the drummer, pedal steel player, and bassist departed to let Walker bring the show in for a memorable landing with a stripped-down and spellbinding solo version of “Voices,” the heartbreaking opening song off Glad You Made It.

We were glad we made it, and we’re sure many people will wish they were there to see this future star when we see Joshua Ray Walker next time at a theater or arena.

Loving County
Bronco Billy’s
Working Girl
Lot Lizard
Dumpster Diving
Dallas Lights
Hello (Lionel Ritchie cover)
Three Strikes
Boat Show Girl
True Love
Fossil Fuel
Last Call
Sexy After Dark
D.B. Cooper
Burn It

About The Author

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Co-Founder and Editor

Before co-founding Milwaukee Record, Tyler Maas wrote for virtually every Milwaukee publication (except Wassup! Magazine). He lives in Bay View and enjoys both stuff and things.