The Runaway Kid
Reviewed by William Harries Graham, Fri., Aug. 8, 2014
J. WagnerThe Runaway Kid
J. Wagner writes songs like the novel you long for after the last page is turned. Wagner's self-released sophomore album, The Runaway Kid, proves he's not just whittling words. He's become a commander of ideation. Wagner grew up in Albuquerque, went to college in Denton, worked as a park ranger in Joshua Tree National Park, and now calls Austin home, a headquarters from which he's become a mainstay of the Kerrville Folk Festival community, where he met writing partner Gregory Alan Isakov. It's the latter's version of their mutual "If I Go, I'm Goin'" that made it onto Californication. The Runaway Kid features two Isakov co-writes alongside Ron Scott, which double as the hits of the album, "Houston" and "Suitcase Full of Sparks." Soon you'll be humming to the former: "Maybe the highway took all my last chances/ Maybe the high water was just another one to blame/ That hot summer sidewalk hardens all my good intentions/ Did the heart grow hungry when all there was was concrete." Wagner's minimalist approach is a relief, new like spring after a long, hard winter, sublime as the summer sun rising and setting on your front porch.