Conrad Walz
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Conrad Walz

Calgary, Alberta, Canada | SELF

Calgary, Alberta, Canada | SELF
Band Rock Americana

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The most memorable music I heard at this year's Alberta Sessions was provided by a singer-songwriter from Calgary who I had never seen before. During his set I was delighted the whole time and yet I found myself shaking my head, wondering how someone this talented could be operating below our radar. I still don't have the answer to that question, but at least there's now an album available which confirms the easy-going confidence, the seasoned musicianship, the nicely weathered but easy-on-the-ears voice, and the deceptively simple songs filled with great hooks which seem to spring effortlessly from the imagination of Conrad Walz.

This new album isn't his first (it was preceded a few years ago by Millionaire's Blues) nor is The Wrecking Ball the only one absorbing his talents (Conrad also plays in at least two other bands: Swamp Donkey, and the Wax Poets). No matter, the fourteen songs that you'll find on this disc comprise a great collection of finely crafted roots rock with a range of flavours including country rock, rock 'n' roll, and smart pop, all built on the classic sounds of bass, drums, harmonica and lots of guitars: acoustic, electric, slide, resonator, and pedal steel. The stories are also cut from the roots rock cloth with themes of love & lust, the ups & downs (often self-inflicted) and broken promises that the weekends bring, and the always redemptive power of music.

Conrad acted as producer of the project and he was able to get strong performances not only from his core band but from a select group of special guests. I'm guessing that Walz has listened to a lot of classic recordings over the years and that he has spent more than his fair share of time in recording studios because he wisely manages to avoid the temptation to fill up the empty spaces. The songs are allowed to breathe and the musicians seem comfortable in that they don't have to force themselves to be heard. The end result is an album whose musical charms are evident from the first song and fully appreciated when the last notes fade out fifty minutes later.

- CKUA Radio website


WRECK AND ROLL ALL NITE
by Chris Bowerman

Conrad Walz just had a rock star moment, fleeting as it was. After some lean years on the cusp of a breakthrough, on this night anyway, he's the man. Before leaving his place to meet a gushing magazine wonk at the pub, Walz serendipitously locked into a sweet new melody on his acoustic Martin. After peeling himself away from the huge hit (a joke), he hopped into his pickup, flipped through the stations and landed on Allison Brock’s show for 97.7 Calgary FM, which was spinning “Good to Love You”, a countrified number with pedal steel guitar, brushed skins and a catchy, heart rending chorus-shades of Ryan Adams or a Jayhawks ballad with a seasoned voice reminiscent of young Canadian bucks Sam Roberts and Matt Mays (no joke)-which just so happens to be off his band’s newly released album, sans record label, Conrad Walz and the Wrecking Ball.
After stealing the show at the recent Alberta Sessions live-music series, Walz, in a rare solo-acoustic performance, had more than one fly on the wall asking: Why isn’t this guy a star?! Which prompted some pointed questions over pints, starting with: “Conrad, pardon the interruption, but where the hell did you come from?” The short story is: born and raised in Calgary; piano lessons, school choir; been in lots of bands, on lots of job sites; now does interior woodwork; started by helping his dad, Conrad Walz Sr., who owns his own construction company. “It was the easiest opportunity, and my dad’s cool,” Walz jr. says. “If I ever had a soundcheck or something in the afternoon, he’d just say, ‘No problem. See you later.’” His grandparents were cool, too. Growing up, Walz says, “My grandpa always wanted to jam. Grandma on the piano-she had arthritis so she’d play two notes at once-and grandpa on the saxophone.” (Even when grandpa had Alzheimer’s. “He didn’t know his own name, but he could still play music.”) They’d cover standards like “Hello Dolly,” “Five Foot Two, Eyes of Blue” and “Moon River,” models of roots and soul and great hooks that still informs the music of the thirtysomething “songwriter at heart,” who swaggers these days with a certain confidence: “It’s because I believe in the music.”
The longer story is more complicated. “Playing music,” Walz says “is as much fun as it is necessary, like scratching an itch. And I always wanted to be in a rock ’n’ roll band... a band full of friends.” Apparently, Walz has lots of friends-he’s the linchpin in three groups (including Wax Poets and Swamp Donkey) which means he’s often up till 3 a.m. playing music, then off to do carpentry on only a few hours sleep. “It sucks.”
The new Wrecking Ball record is full of true blue-collar sounds-roots, rockabilly, country, nothing contrived or “smarty-pants”-and suggests, by it’s title, the paradox of rock ‘n’ roll: it lifts you up and makes you wanna smash stuff. “It’s a metaphor for self destruction,” Walz says. “And it’s kind of a breakup record. It was a good one-after six years-enough to get a few songs of anyway... Sometimes you’ve got to knock s..t down to start new.” - Malcolm Kirk


"Conrad Walz kind of scares me! Why? Because rarely do you find someone as
accomplished in as many fields as Conrad is. He is an exceptional songwriter
first and foremost, and at the same time a very, very good guitar player. It
is , however, his "in head" musicality that frightens me... His arrangement
ideas, chords structures and the like are brilliant. It appears he has
stolen from everyone...the Beatles, Tom Petty, Rod Stewart, The Band, Bob
Dylan, the Stones..you name it and the music of Conrad Walz will put you to mind of some, if not all, of these artists. Although he has borrowed from a
lot of different places, the music comes out the other end standing on it's
own legs. Conrad Walz is an artist and we are lucky to have him in this
musical community.

Neil MacGonigill
Indelible Music

Neil MacGonigill is the former manager of Jann Arden and has spent most of his adult life working in the music business.
- none


Discography

"Millionaire's Blues" lp 2006
"Conrad Walz and the Wrecking Ball" lp 2008

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Bio

“Conrad Walz and The Wrecking Ball” is the latest album charming critics and winning hearts. It has enjoyed extensive radio airplay in Alberta and beyond. The word is spreading and the buzz is growing!

Conrad’s March 2008 solo set at “The Alberta Sessions : Songwriter Series” in Calgary was a catalyst in raising awareness of a somewhat undiscovered talent as it was regarded by many as one of the best of the event. As David Ward, host of “the afternoon edition” on CKUA radio put it:

“The most memorable music I heard at this year's Alberta Sessions was provided by a singer-songwriter from Calgary who I had never seen before. During his set I was delighted the whole time and yet I found myself shaking my head, wondering how someone this talented could be operating below our radar. I still don't have the answer to that question, but at least there's now an album available which confirms the easy-going confidence, the seasoned musicianship, the nicely weathered but easy-on-the-ears voice, and the deceptively simple songs filled with great hooks which seem to spring effortlessly from the imagination of Conrad Walz.”

Also in attendance that night was Neil MacGonigill of Indelible Music, former Jann Arden manager and lifelong passionate music fan. He had this to say:

"Conrad Walz kind of scares me! Why? Because rarely do you find someone as accomplished in as many fields as Conrad is. He is an exceptional songwriter first and foremost, and at the same time a very, very good guitar player. It is however, his "in head" musicality that frightens me... His arrangement ideas, chords structures and the like are brilliant.”

Hailing from Calgary, Alberta, Canada, it could be said that Conrad Walz is a product of his environment. The majestic Rocky mountains to the west and the simple, honest prairies to the east both find a metaphoric place in his music. Though his style could be described as rootsy, sometimes bluesy, alternative country tinged, pop rock music, he prefers to just call it rock n roll. Suffice to say the song is king in Conrad’s world. Melodic and lyrical hooks ride atop rough edged riffs and grooves while engaging the listener with heartfelt emotion, humor and a touch of attitude.

The latest album, recorded with his live band, “The Wrecking Ball” is a natural progression in Conrad's musical journey. Beginning with childhood piano lessons, his path has made it's way through many projects which have varied in scope and incorporated a broad range of styles. From campfire jams at backyard parties to festival stages in Norway, from the straight up rock and roll of his first band, “the Straw Dogs”, through the improvisational funk/jazz/rock of “Big Bad Monkey”, to the whiskey soaked midnight ramblings of country/punk rockers “Swamp Donkey”, Conrad has produced a wealth of quality material and has broadened his creative palette (not to mention cornering the market on animal band names!). Also making their mark from 2007 to 2010 were another of Conrad's bands, WaxPoets, who released their self titled album and followed it up with a Canadian tour in 08/09. Though no longer working together, they leave behind a collection of pop rock gems which garnered rave reviews and was the soundtrack to a whirlwind couple of years of wild shows and wilder after parties. Craig Norris of CBC radio 3 chose their song "Can't Slow Down" as track of the day and "Absolute Powerpop" ranked the album among the top 50 of the year.

Common to all of Conrad's recordings are not only an easy likability, but also a sense of depth and a timeless feel. If reaction to early demos for the next record is any indication, a big breakthrough is right around the corner. Lookout for a new album and tour in 2011!