Joshua Ray Walker is an intriguing sort of southern-tinged songwriter. One would presume to have his preferred artistry figured out, at least from a distance, based on his mild but noticeable vocal twang, the gently curved blending of the words he sings – almost yodel-esque in style – and his appreciation for pieces of the classic cowboy look. Add to this the setting and central characters of the Dallas musician’s newest single, “Boat Show Girl,” and Walker presents an inherent connection to several kinds of events, people, and personalities he encountered within his local community. However, straight ahead stereotypical country is hardly what Walker is serving up with this song.
Premiering today on American Songwriter, “Boat Show Girl” is the latest track off Walker’s forthcoming LP, Glad You Made It, which comes out July 10, 2020.
“When I was growing up, my dad was an avid fisherman and my mom worked in motorsports promotion. Every weekend, I was at bass fishing tournaments, monster truck rallies, car and boat shows, NASCAR charity functions, and they all had something in common: Young, bikini-clad women, pushing products to married men at family friendly events,” says Walker.
Though some might expect a fast-moving, rousing, honky-tonk dance track given the vibrant and high-energy imagery Walker mentions, “Boat Show Girl” doesn’t mold its musical foundation around them. Some traits of Walker’s southern sound are there but, with a melodically wistful chord progression and the endearing sophistication of an accordion’s timbre in the song’s arrangement, it becomes clear this isn’t just some set-it-and-forget-it party time song.
Right from the get-go, Walker opts for a fascinating take on this autobiographically-inspired part of his childhood. While the song draws directly from Walker’s own real-life memories with his parents, the now grown artist doesn’t just flat-out reminisce on these unique occasions. There’s also an element of contemplation about the intentions and sincerity behind it all, given the awkward and sometimes even downright contradictory aspects of what an audience member’s exchange with a “Boat Show Girl” often looked like.
“It always struck me as odd,” he continues. “I remember watching these girls do their best to convince event-goers that their interactions were genuine. That they really were excited to pose with some guy on next years, top of the line, ride on mower. Their delivery came with a wink and a nod, but no one seemed to notice. I felt like I was in on the joke. It’s something that stuck with me and eventually came out this song,” Walker says.
Bathed in sequins
a beacon when daddy did you wrong
yeah fake tan covers bruises
but it doesn’t last that long
Freedom ain’t that free
happiness can be cheap
Zero-down and less you spend on cigarettes every week
You can take this beauty home
Treat her like you should
Just like every boat show girl wishes that you would
Cleverly pairing the seemingly flawless, always happy, and accommodating disposition of a boat show girl with that of less fortunate folks and-or those working hard to start better lives, really illuminates how the value of something as seemingly straightforward as a smile differs, given who it’s coming from, and why. “Boat Show Girl” is easy to hum or sing-along with but also takes the time to point out a perhaps less-commonly considered facet of entertainment local to Dallas.