Despite the band being a longtime Seattle fixture, a full-on Walkabouts show has become a rarity, mostly because half of the group's vocal team moved to Slovenia. They were often misjudged to be a country act ("We made one album of covers," singer Carla Torgerson says in a voice tinged with frustration, "some of which were country songs, and since then everybody calls us a country band"), but I missed Satisfied Mind, the 1993 release that pigeonholed the group, so I've always perceived them to be a fine example of lushness in restraint. Their albums sound like journeys, traveling from town to town, or the migration of love. Shimmers is a good title for their new best-of collection, because it is a glistening testament to the band's versatility.
The songs on Shimmers were chosen in an unorthodox manner: Online "superfans" of the band were asked to list their favorite Walkabouts song on a message board, and afterwards, the band chose from the results.
What differentiates Shimmers from most best-of albums is that it's created with flow in mind. Says Torgerson, "We wanted it to be a nice ride." I tell her they succeeded, and ask what surprised her most about the superfans' responses. "Sometimes there would be a song where only three people had picked it, like 'Sand & Gravel' off Setting the Woods on Fire. That was such a tiny little song on that album, and you wouldn't think anyone would remember that one, but three women picked it.
"'The Light Will Stay On' [off 1996's Devil's Road] got the most votes, but that was our hit and the album sold 85,000 copies in Europe," she says. The song is a heart-stopper, with Torgerson's vocals matching the swells of music surrounding her. "Winslow Place" (from 2002's Ended Up a Stranger) demonstrates Chris Eckman's knack for singing narratives. Torgerson's lead choice, a cover of Scott Walker's "Man from Reno," is a clever one, and the swelling strings on "Findlay's Motel" (off the live album Bruxelles) makes for a gorgeous ending. If you've ever been a fan, don't miss this show. It will be a year until you get another chance.