Chris Walker, 1968-2010

Chris Walker's stellar musical abilities were showcased all over the Cincinnati music scene for the past few decades. His cool, kind nature and mad bass skills earned him a place in innumerable bands throughout his career, and his talent knew no genre bo

Local super-bassist Chris Walker passed away July 3 from serious injuries sustained in a 2007 car accident. He was 42.

Walker’s stellar musical abilities were showcased all over the Cincinnati music scene for the past few decades. His cool, kind nature and mad bass skills earned him a place in innumerable bands throughout his career, and his talent knew no genre boundaries, as he seemed comfortable (if not masterful) playing almost any style of music. Walker held down the bottom end for local bands like Big Whiskey, IsWhat?!, Derrick Sanders Soul Expression and Conrail Saints (to name but a fraction), as well as Heavy Weather and The Walker Project with his sister Carole.

Walker was paralyzed from the waist down and lost motor skills in his hands following the 2007 accident that killed his friend/travel partner Julie Martin. Most in the local music community were stunned, and several banded together to form the “Friends for Chris Walker” organization, which put together many benefit concerts for Chris in the years since his accident. (He got to attend several of the events in person and also made an appearance at the 2008 Cincinnati Entertainment Awards.) Chris’ initial survival of the wreck ensured that he knew how loved he was in the local music scene.

A memorial service for Walker will be held Saturday at the Crossroads Community Church in Oakley beginning at 10 a.m. The service will be followed by a celebration of Chris’ life and music at Stanley’s Pub from 2-7 p.m. In lieu of flowers, the family is asking that people make a donation to the musicians assistance group Play It Forward (www.pifcincy.org) in Chris’ name.

New Local Releases

• Impressive Roots/Americana newcomers Hickory Robot host a release party for their debut release, the 13-track album Firefly, Friday at Stanley’s Pub. The band is joined by Jimmy King and the Rubber Knife Gang for the 9:30 p.m. show.

Firefly would be a stunning release by a veteran band; the fact that Hickory Robot is such a new group (though members have veteran experience) makes it all the more astounding. There’s a remarkable diversity in the four-piece’s repertoire, thanks at least in part to the members’ multi-instrumentalist skills (fiddle, bass, guitar and mandolin are the core tools, but they also color with everything from banjo to cello to washboard). While there’s a strong traditional anchor to the band’s sound, the singular songwriting talents on display (three of the four members wrote songs for the album) give it a contemporary element and help the band standout from its peers.

Solid writing, impeccable musicianship and “secret weapon” Lauren Schloemer (whose fiddle and vocals provide many highlights) make Hickory Robot one of the best new bands in the local music scene. (www.myspace.com/hickoryrobot)

The Graveblankets are back! Though the members have been busy with other musical projects, the popular Folk/Rock/Pop group hasn’t put out a proper recording since 2000’s Where It Hurts. The Blankets make their triumphant return Saturday at Molly Malone’s in Covington with a refreshed lineup (regulars Chris Arduser, George Cunningham and Bob Nyswonger are joined by 18-year-old vocalist/fiddle master Rosie Carson) and some new tunes.

The band will have copies of a new self-titled, four-song EP available at the show, a teaser release in advance of a new full-length. The four new tracks are classic Graveblankets, marked by instantly memorable melodies, flawless musicianship and the untouchable songwriting of Arduser. Carson’s contributions are most evident on closer “Bad Decisions,” as she offers sublime string work and stellar harmonies.

One listen and fans of the band (and the members’ work in local legends psychodots and The Bears) will be begging for that long-player.

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