This week, retro Friday takes us back in time to the 1996 single ‘The Light Will Stay On’ by American band The Walkabouts. This outstanding song is the opening track from ‘Devil’s Road’, which was recorded for Virgin Records in Cologne, Germany. The bass pulses, reinforced by insistent finger-picking and gorgeous strings that swell, rising and falling as the song builds. It has absorbing, thought-provoking lyrics to match its atmospheric sound: “And long after we’re gone // The lights will stay on…And long after we’re safe // The lights will not fade.” These words are delivered by the captivating voice of Carla Torgerson, whose singing is clear, pure and beautifully melodic.
While this single was an original song written by Chris Eckman, The Walkabouts were also known for stunning versions of songs by other artists, such as The Carter Family’s ‘The Storms Are on the Ocean’, Nick Cave’s ‘Loom of the Land’ and ‘On the Beach’ by Neil Young (The Walkabouts’ beautiful take on this song featured on the first ‘Sounds of the New West’ compilation from Uncut magazine). All of these superb songs are worthy of exploring. The band included a host of talented players, such as long-standing members Terri Moeller on drums, Glenn Slater on keys and bassist Michael Wells. However, vocalists and guitarists Carla Torgerson and Chris Eckman were at the heart of The Walkabouts. Their voices blend perfectly, especially in darker, intimate songs, whether covers or original compositions, which they imbued with character, emotion and soul. Absorb this.