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Bluesman Seth Walker Has A Surprising Song

Austin-based blues guitarist and singer Seth Walker does his hard-driving thing on his new album, Leap of Faith, drawing from the Chicago and Memphis schools of music. So listeners could understandably be puzzled to stumble upon a sweet and sentimental ballad, sung with a pinch of Frank Sinatra and accompanied by both a shimmering weep of strings and a pianist with a mellow, mournful touch. The title is as hokey as Barry Manilow: "I Got a Song." And it's the oldest story in the ballad book: "Shoulda known all along / It was gonna go wrong.... [Pregnant pause.] At least I got a song."

But when you think about it, young Walker isn't straying too far from old-school blues. Some of his forefathers and -mothers had an undeniable affection for a big-band sound, and what made it work then (and now) is the voice. Walker's sweet tenor carries an edge of pain, as well as affection for blue notes. His blues music isn't just about guitars and drums, just as it isn't about the torn jeans and unshaven face he presents on his Web site. Topping off that hobo look is a fedora with a sharp crease — a cool, nostalgic hat that's the sartorial equivalent of "I Got a Song."

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Marc Silver
Marc Silver, who edits NPR's global health blog, has been a reporter and editor for the Baltimore Jewish Times, U.S. News & World Report and National Geographic. He is the author of Breast Cancer Husband: How to Help Your Wife (and Yourself) During Diagnosis, Treatment and Beyond and co-author, with his daughter, Maya Silver, of My Parent Has Cancer and It Really Sucks: Real-Life Advice From Real-Life Teens. The NPR story he co-wrote with Rebecca Davis and Viola Kosome -- 'No Sex For Fish' — won a Sigma Delta Chi award for online reporting from the Society of Professional Journalists.