Ellicott City band releases new album
The pandemic has been a struggle for millions since it began in March 2020. And that goes for Ellicott City musician Richard Walton as well.
A singer, songwriter and performer, Walton wasn’t able to play in his normal venues, like Little Market Café in Ellicott City or Main Stage Grill in Woodstock. He couldn’t tour around Maryland or sell records in person.
But he has been writing songs. In June, Walton released his 13th record, entitled “Your Love,” via his trio group “Straight On Red,” which includes his wife, Tecla.
Now in his 50s, Walton’s music career has spanned multiple decades, albums and shows. He was inducted to the Maryland Entertainment Hall of Fame in 2016, the same year his band was nominated for Best Jazz Artist by the Maryland Music Awards.
A multi-genre sound
The Catonsville native began playing in “garage bands” during his teenage years in the 1970s before earning his first gig at the age of 17. He auditioned for a semi-professional band based in Baltimore County and joined the group as a bass guitarist.
Today, Walton is the bassist in his own band, The Richard Walton Group. The ensemble formed back in 1990, playing music many people describe as the jazz variety. However, Walton has his own take on the Richard Walton Group’s sound.
“We’re calling it ‘multi-genre’ because it incorporates jazz, rock, funk and Latin — all those combined,” he said.
“I’ve been in arguments with jazz purists that have put me against the wall, saying, ‘You’re not a jazz artist.’ And I’ve just said, ‘Yeah, I agree with you!’
While he was not on the road playing in front of crowds during the pandemic, Walton was working hard on his new album. He said this new set of songs is an extended play (EP) originally started in the late 2000s.
EP recordings generally contain fewer songs than an album. In Walton’s case, it includes 10 bonus tracks that were finished during the pandemic.
“I was in the studio, and I found all these songs that were unfinished,” he said. His wife and fellow musicians encouraged him to finish producing the record. “So that’s what I did.”
In August, the band returned to the stage, performing songs from the new record as well as its most recent vinyl, “Twelve,” which is Walton’s solo project featuring Tecla and members of a band called Crack The Sky (guitarist Rick Witkowski and Tecla were main producers on that album).
Now back in action, the group has 18 gigs scheduled in the month of August.
‘We leave our egos at the door’
The Richard Walton Group has had many members since its inception three decades ago, and Walton keeps in touch with almost all of them.
“Everybody in this band is really humble. Not only are they great musicians, but we kind of leave our egos at the door,” he said.
While it sometimes took some extra effort to get everyone on the same page when it came to the music, Walton said, he is grateful to have collaborated with talented musicians and friends for so many years.
“I write a wide variety of music. But I kind of give my band members more of an opportunity [to develop the music],” he said. “It’s almost like coloring a picture with other painters. I like other people’s take on things.”
Walton said his music has been influenced by Holand-Dozier-Holland, Joni Mitchell, Smokey Robinson and Stevie Wonder.
But there’s also a group Walton credits with boosting his songwriting ability: the monthly songwriting circle that he joined in 2005 and has led for more than 10 years. Attendees have included songwriters from around Maryland, who bring their works to meetings to be critiqued and improved.
“That group has helped me tremendously. Some of the songwriter friends I have are just phenomenal,” Walton said. “Leading that group took my songwriting up a notch.”
Due to the pandemic, in-person meetings have been on hold. However, he hopes that it will pick back up when COVID-19 is in the rearview mirror.
This summer, Walton is involved with multiple projects, with four more albums currently in the works or more than halfway done. He mentioned that there is a Richard Walton Group EP being mastered now — that is, having the final touches being put on by the band’s sound engineer — that he hopes to release soon.
In the meantime, Walton is just enjoying the ride and going wherever the music takes him — from the Delaware shore to private events throughout Maryland.
“For live music, wherever I can get work, I go. I have no fear of travel, and love meeting new people and bringing a positive vibe.”