Ironically the son of a Canadian politician, Colter Wall is as rugged and real as it gets.
Hailing from Swift Current, Saskatchewan, Wall is a Canadian cowboy with a knack for telling stories. A talented lyricist, Wall’s captivating stories of the Western Frontier can make one think he really lived on the Western plains over a century ago.
Mixing powerful originals with covers of songs by some of the greatest songwriters of all time, like Townes Van Zandt, Marty Robbins, and other folk legends, Wall has an extensive catalog of music to be explored. Having released four albums since 2015, Wall’s most recent album, Western Swing and Waltzes and Other Punchy Songs is one of the greatest releases of 2020.
Here are my favorite songs by Colter Wall, the “Plain To See Plainsman.”
10. “Wild Bill Hickock” – Songs of the Plains (2018)
One of the most iconic figures of the American Wild West, it only makes sense Colter Wall has a song telling Wild Bill’s story.
9. “Rocky Mountain Rangers – Western Swings and Waltzes and Other Punchy Songs (2020)
8. “Codeine Dream” – Colter Wall (2017)
“Prayin’ on the north wind to lead me to my door
Thumbing through my greenbacks, swearin’ I made more
Some cruel nightly cycle leaves me cryin’ on a motel floor
But I don’t cry for you anymore”
7. “Caroline” – Imaginary Appalachia (2015)
6. “Talkin’ Prairie Boy” – Western Swings and Waltzes and Other Punchy Songs (2020)
Off of Wall’s most recent album, “Talkin’ Prairie Boy” is more of a spoken story than a song, but the lyrics are phenomenal and the story is a humorous one about Wall being out of place in Nashville and realizing he needs to get back home to Saskatchewan.
“I was coolin’ my heels down in Tennessee
Post ’82 some buddies and me
And we were shootin’ the shit
Till we ran outta ammunition
Some dude overheard from across the room
And instead of mindin’ his own he just assumed
He’d sit down next us and join in on the conversation
Brought over some kinda beer, something called a IPA”
5. “Saskatchewan in 1881” – Songs of the Plains (2018)
4. “The Devil Wears a Suit and Tie” – Imaginary Appalachia (2015)
Colter Wall has always expressed appreciation for old folk, country, and blues music. This song from Wall’s first album makes a number of references to Robert Johnson, the legendary Mississippi blues musician who allegedly sold his soul to the devil in return for guitar skills.
“And he said, “I know you, I know you, young man
I know you by the state of your hands
You’re a six-string picker, just as I am
Let me learn you somethin’: I know a few turns to make all the girls dance”
3. “Thirteen Silver Dollars” – Colter Wall (2017)
Inspired by a run-in Wall had with an officer in his hometown, “Thirteen Silver Dollars” tells a story of a drifter getting arrested by a condescending man of the law. It also makes references to classic songs by Emmylou Harris and Jimmie Rodgers.
“Well, I got my health, my John B Stetson
Got a bottle full of baby’s Bluebird Wine
And I left my stash somewhere down in Preston
Along with thirteen silver dollars and my mind”
2. “Sleeping on the Blacktop” – Imaginary Appalachia (2015)
The most streamed Colter Wall song, “Sleeping on the Blacktop” grew in popularity as it was included in the 2016 film Hell or High Water, as well as the 2017 film Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri.
“Corn liquor tastes sweeter in this town
Could it be it’s the same as the last?
I swear I’ve seen your face elsewhere before
Just as familiar as a bottle and a glass”
1. “Kate McCannon” – Colter Wall (2017)
“Kate McCannon” tops a long list of great Colter Wall songs for me.
A lover of murder ballads himself, Wall has a keen ability to tell stories through his music. Accompanied by an incredible music video, anyone who watches is sure to get the chills when the narrator avenges his wife’s infidelity.
While there are tons of other Colter songs that could have made my top 10, Western Swing and Waltzes and Ballad of a Law Abiding Sophisticate are especially close honorable mentions.