Hear Jerry Jeff Walker like you’ve never heard him before on these recordings

This week’s American-Statesman feature story on Jerry Jeff Walker noted that the Wittliff Collections in San Marcos recently acquired some early live and demo recordings Walker made in 1964 and 1965, before any of his music got released on a label. Those songs can be heard at the Wittliff’s “Viva Jerry Jeff” exhibit through July 8, but the archival museum also has made a few of them available for streaming online.

Jerry Jeff Walker at his home in West Austin in March 2018. Tom McCarthy Jr. for AMERICAN-STATESMAN

The best is one Walker referred to in our story as “Until Then I’ll Keep Bummin’, Better Days Are Comin’.” Introducing the song on the December 1965 recording, he calls it “I Look for That Day Today,” but by either name, it’s an intriguing look into what Walker was thinking about when it was recorded.

Walker takes some cues from Bob Dylan here, but it’s also very much in his own voice. Verses about a range of social injustices give way to a chorus that expresses hope for the future: “I look for that morning today, but I guess that it’s still on the way. Until then I’ll keep bummin’, ’cause the better days are comin’. And I hope as I go, that tomorrow won’t be as slow.”

Here’s the song in full:

The Wittliff also has posted a couple of tracks from the summer 1964 live recording made in New Orleans. “Talkin’ New Orleans Destruction Blues” and “The Quorum Raid” are more directly derivative of Dylan and Woody Guthrie, respectively, but they’re worth hearing, even with the slight variance in speed on the restored audio that miraculously survived for more than a half-century.

Walker’s annual Texas Bash celebration of his birthday (he turned 76 last week) is Saturday at the Paramount Theatre. (A second show on Sunday at Gruene Hall is sold out.)

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