Photo by Angelina Castillo
“It was just a thing that happened to me.
Finding the box gave me
permission to explore a fringe,
American realm with less caution.”
- Skyway Man
Well over a decade ago, on a restless summer night in a Blue Ridge Mountain college town, James Wallace and a friend—both recently-graduated, both currently-bored— climbed into the attic of a long-vacant motorcycle garage. Rummaging by flashlight past teardrop gas tanks, a large floor loom, and a pile of rotting clothing, James stumbled upon a box that, once opened, would be the first step on the future-path of Skyway Man. Inside were nearly a hundred letters, loosely 1987-1993, from another James—Dr. James Cyr (“Seer”)—and all addressed to a woman named Kate. They spoke of a spiritual practice centered around aliens, the information he gleaned from “channeling,” and the coming of a new era for the planet.
Fate, or a lengthy research ramble, eventually brought the two Jameses together, and later still, with Kate, the recipient herself. Like a dream one can't shake upon waking, the impact of the encounter never faded, seeping fully into the framework of all his future creations.
On his third voyage as Skyway Man, artist + producer James Wallace is still seeking answers beyond the stars and still coming back with more questions in the form of ten brilliant songs. On its surface, Flight of the Long Distance Healer registers as another concept album replete with aliens and alternative philosophy, but this time around, Wallace coats the glass with a vital layer of self-reflection.
His previous concept effort, 2020’s The World Only Ends When You Die—described by All Music as “a Muscle Shoals-backed Grateful Dead boogie van piloting the Greek underworld”—contained vague echoes of UFOlogy throughout; but in this fresh batch of future-gospel songs, Wallace reimagines his life over the past decade of knowing CYR and the complicated and fascinating web of Alien ideology that followed. Each song is a telepathic message sent to or from Dr. CYR himself over the years in a current of Long Distance Healing.
Like a West Coast Dr. John—but more preoccupied with flying saucers than voodoo dolls—Skyway Man is in the business of opening new aural worlds, cracking open reality just enough to get the message through. Flight of the Long Distance Healer sparkles and blinks, whispers and moans—hugely enjoyable music rendered in imaginative and gleaming style. There are hints of the polyrhythmic cinematic sensibility from Wallace’s contributions to the Joe Pera television series, rhythms of the Stax-inspired Spacebomb house band, and ripples of the current East Bay scene outside San Francisco. In a real showcase for the extended Skyway Man family, Wallace has coaxed personal and masterful performances from the likes of Erin Rae, Vetiver’s Andy Cabic, Molly Sarlé, pedal steel wizard Spencer Cullum, Kelly McFarling, and more. Cooking up genres in such a way as to keep their nutrients intact, he packs prog, blues, glam rock, swamp boogie, and future folk into a beautiful Martian bouillon.