Seth Walker’s new album, I Hope I Know is a beacon of light, each of its ten songs shining forth with what so many have come to love about Walker and his soulful Americana: diverse influences, contemplative lyrics, that signature blue tone on the guitar, and movement both geographic and spiritual. It’s his 11th recording to date and continues a long-running collaboration with producer Jano Rix.
Perhaps best described as Walker's 'round-midnight album, I Hope I Know was written in the midst of a breakup as he relocated from his home in Nashville, TN to Asheville, NC, and endured the inherent struggles caused by the pandemic. Its tempos are slower and tonality darker than on previous work. In Walker's words, he had to just “sit with it.” The music’s creation embodied trying and failing without forcing anything: not time, not the songwriting or its grooves, not a sense of control, not even his own healing. He credits the practice of “search and surrender,” a quest for new meaning in things he may never fully understand. Taken in its totality, it’s a beautiful reckoning with heartbreak, moving across states and coming to terms with the uncertainty of the future.
“This last year and a half has personally cracked me open. In many ways, for the first time, I'm observing myself and how I relate to the music, how I sit with the feeling, the emotion, my shadow and light,” explains Walker. “I have always been in this place of action, and finally, when all this happened, I found myself in a place of relinquishing—an active state of inaction.”
The first sessions for I Hope I Know began in 2019, but it wouldn't be until the second half of 2020 when Walker would truly dive into the writing and recording process. Oliver Wood—Jano Rix’s bandmate in The Wood Brothers—cowrote three of the songs, as did Walker’s longtime songwriting partner Gary Nicholson, while Jarrod Dickenson also contributed to one song. Among the album's highlights are “Why Do I Cry Anymore,” which asks unanswerable questions about recovering from heartbreak, ultimately coming to the conclusion that love is still worth it. “Remember Me” haunts with old jazz and blues, a falsetto vocal, arco acoustic bass and dusty drums. The title track came from the “Ho’oponopono Prayer,” a Hawaiian poem about forgiveness and reconciliation that his mother sent him, which translates as “I am sorry. Forgive me. Thank you. I love you.” Special guest Allison Russelladds vocal harmonies.
Three cover songs featured on the recording offer something familiar to hold onto—a tinge of nostalgia, minus the impulse to cling to the past. The Bobby Charles’ song “Tennessee Blues” perfectly speaks to Walker moving from Nashville into the mountains of Asheville as he tried to “figure out what just happened, post break up.” Van Morrison’s “Warm Love” is the perfect respite and breather. Bob Dylan’s “Buckets of Rain” came spontaneously like a dream; Seth woke up one morning with the song in his head and quickly captured this rendition.
The follow up to Walker’s 2019 album, Are You Open?—which debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard Blues Album Chart—I Hope I Know is a completely distinct statement from the previous ten recordings in Walker's discography. The songs create a deep, but relatable journey, offering a beacon of light and ultimately safe haven, centered around the most precious of all gifts—Hope.