Harking back to an era of technically proficient folk guitar, Ryley Walker brings a high level of craftsmanship to his work. Hailing from the Chicago scene that brought an exquisitely understated fusion of jazz and prog (Tortoise et al), Primrose Green brings a pastoral flavour to an area of rich musical heritage. Out on CD and vinyl LP from Dead Oceans.
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An absolutely breathtaking album from start to finish. Many singer-songwriters are currently mining that 1970’s folk/jazz influenced type territory for inspiration but no-one has nailed this sound better than Ryley Walker.
The album is the perfect concoction of Tim Buckley, Nick Drake and John Martin but the added ingredient that makes it so wonderfully evocative is the inspiration it derives from Van Morrison’s unsurpassable ‘Astral Weeks’ The album has a jazzy, freewheeling nature where songs drifts seemingly without structure or at least a structure which suggests that the musicians have imbibed large quantities of hasish.
First up, the production is perfect, you’ll never hear better drumming than this, the double bass is warm and woody and the acoustic guitars clang effectively. Improvised jazz-inflected keys sit just under the mix giving an insouciant hippy-dream feel to proceedings. It rocks hard at times too ‘Summer Dress’ tumbles along like Fairport Convention collectively falling down the stairs - in this matter there’s an almost Beefheart randomness to proceedings, Walker lets the musicians fly but when he reigns them in on ‘Same Minds’ the effect is just as mesmerising, at least two tracks sound like how Songs Ohia might sound had Jason Molina relocated to Laurel Canyon yet some of the rhythms point towards Talk Talk’s ‘Laughing Stock’ as re-imagined by John Fahey.
If not a note of music has resonated correctly with you since Van Morrison wrapped up ‘Astral Weeks’ then this is for you. Even if not and you like your folk ramshackle and progressive you are going to find much to enjoy. It’s a superb album. I can’t recommend it highly enough.
10/10 Andrew Revis Customer review, 12th April 2016
Aged 25, Tim Buckley released Greetings From L.A., Van Morrison released His Band And The Street Choir, and John Martyn released Inside Out; and now - and I think on this occasion it's fair to add to the list - Ryley Walker gives us Primrose Green.
The prodigious Walker is a troubadour in that classic mould. He's 25 but he could be any age. He's from Chicago but could be from any place - on this evidence you might well assume the UK somewhere. As with the artists listed above, he plays music way beyond his years. Walker is clearly a musical virtuoso - just listen to his licks on Sweet Satisfaction, or the widdly complex closer Hide In The Roses. He sings with a lilt all of his own, while simultaneously nodding to his heroes: he nails the Tim Buckley vibrato on Summer Dress and at various points hits the Van Morrison moans and groans.
Primrose Green, his second album, follows the relatively prosaic All Kinds Of You - the title track of which is included on this album rather than the last. It takes in jazzy, psychedelic folk, ragged instrumental odysseys and delicate finger-picked laments. Such is the telepathic understanding between Walker and his seven bandmates this music sounds spontaneous, at times almost improvised - it's almost as if we're listening to session recordings. That it avoids any hint of the self-indulgence such descriptions suggest is miraculous in itself.
This is a certified future-classic, a freewheeling, somersaulting, hazy, summery, fever dream of an album. Further success - dare I say even greatness - is surely on its way for this young man. Christ I sound old.
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