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Ghost Canyon

Title - Mighty Fine Austin City Limits Tribute: Walt Hyatt
Artist - Various

For those unaware, Uncle Walt’s Band (David Ball, Champ Hood, and Walter Hyatt) were one of the most popular acts in late ’70s/early ’80s Austin, Texas, where the South Carolina band relocated after a long stint in Nashville.

Their on-point songwriting, playing, and singing garnered them local fans, but also Texas luminaries like Willis Alan Ramsey (in a very rare appearance), Jimmie Dale Gilmore, and (then Texas A&M student) Lyle Lovett.

After a few self-released albums and cassettes (all available again via Omnivore Recordings), the band went their separate ways, with Hyatt returning to Nashville with his wife, Heidi.

In 1990, Lovett produced Hyatt’s major label debut, King Tears, and went on the road with Walter as his opening act. Three years later, Hyatt released Music Town.

Then, sadly, he died in the 1996 ValueJet plane crash that took the lives of all passengers and crew. Lovett helped organize tribute concerts to benefit Hyatt’s wife and children.

In 1997, Austin City Limits broadcast one of those tributes featuring friends and fans including Lovett, Ramsey, Gilmore, Junior Brown, Marcia Ball, Allison Moorer, David Halley, Shawn Colvin, and his Uncle Walt’s Band partners, Ball and Hood.

Now, nearly 25 years later, the 11 songs from that original broadcast are available on CD and Digital for the first time as Mighty Fine: An Austin City Limits Tribute to Walter Hyatt.

Due from Omnivore Recordings on October 1st, 2021, the set adds six tracks recorded for, but not shown on Austin City Limits.

Indeed, to make this collection even more special, four previously unissued Hyatt recordings make their debut.

The packaging features photos and a new essay from North Carolina author and musician Thomas Goldsmith. It truly is Mighty Fine.

Austin City Limits Tribute to Walter Hyatt:
1. As The Crow Flies – Willis Alan Ramsey
2. Houston Town – David Ball
3. Georgia Rose – Jimmie Dale Gilmore
4. Are We There Yet Momma – Marica Ball
5. Lonely In Love – Willis Alan Ramsey
6. Motor City Man – David Halley
7. Tell Me Baby – Allison Moorer
8. Diggeroo – Junior Brown
9. Babes In The Woods – Lyle Lovett with Shawn Colvin
10. I’ll Come Knockin’ – Lyle Lovett
11. Aloha – Ensemble

Bonus Austin City Limits Recordings (not included in original broadcast):
12. Rollin’ My Blues – Champ Hood
13. Teach Me About Love – Lyle Lovett
14. Going To New Orleans – Champ Hood
15. Message In A Bottle – David Ball
16. I’m Calling – Lyle Lovett
17. River Road – Champ Hood

Previously-Unissued Walter Hyatt Recordings:
18. Jungle Flower
19. In A Christmas Dream
20. Early Days
21. Shouldn’t Have Told Me That

Opening on the 11 tracks recorded that night back in 1997, first up is the upbeat hipsway of As The Crow Flies (Willis Alan Ramsey) and the country twang of Houston Town (David Ball) and they are backed by the gentle balladry of Georgia Rose (Jimmie Dale Gilmore), the rocking blues piano of Are We There Yet Momma (Marica Ball) and then the dulcet tones of Willis Alan Ramsey come to the fore on the beautiful Lonely In Love.

Next up is one of my own personal favorites from this set, the Dixie-imbibed Motor City Man by David Halley and that is in turn followed by the gentle foot tapper Tell Me Baby (Allison Moorer), the rambunctious rock of Diggeroo (Junior Brown), the late night, low slung blues of Babes In The Woods (Lyle Lovett with Shawn Colvin), the recording rounding out that night on the pleasant magnificence of I’ll Come Knockin’ (Lyle Lovett), closing on the atmospherically charged Aloha from the Ensemble.

The bonus Austin City Limits Recordings that were not included in original broadcast, kick things off with the mid-tempo Rollin’ My Blues (Champ Hood) and the charmingly jaunty Teach Me About Love (Lyle Lovett), before bringing us the acoustic guitar storytelling of Going To New Orleans (Champ Hood), the quietly impassioned Message In A Bottle (David Ball), closing out on the wonderfully harmonized I’m Calling by Lyle Lovett and the heartfelt yearning of River Road from Champ Hood.

Last, but by no means least, come four previously-unissued Walter Hyatt recordings, starting with the harmonica-driven Jungle Flower, before we are led into the festive spirit of In A Christmas Dream, this 21-track CD finally coming to a close on the poignant reminiscing found within Early Days and the quietly frenetic rock ’n’ roll of Shouldn’t Have Told Me That.

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