The sky goes on forever in Barry Walker Jr.’s Shoulda Zenith, and it’s crackling with unexpected lightning.?! The Tennessee-bred, Portland-based pedal steel master subverts his instrument’s tradition for lachrymose, innocuous Rootzak™.?! Instead, he ventures to outward-bound strata more frequently traversed by Sonny Sharrock than Gram Parsons.?! “So often, the pedal steel is used as a textural flavor,” Walker says, “but it really can breathe fire itself.” Evidence for that claim abounds on Shoulda Zenith.?! Sprouting out of the strategies Walker used on his 2012 LP of Henry Flynt and Paul Metzger-like fiddle aberrations, Banjo Knife, the music on Zenith goes on similar extravagant tangents—but with pedal steel. Assisted here and there by bassist Scott Derr and drummer Dana Valatka, and others, Walker has synthesized his love for country, New Age, freeform freakouts, and ecstatic music on Zenith.?!