Friday, April 10, 2015

Ryley Walker : Primrose Green

The striking thing about Ryley Walker’s new album is how close it comes to capturing his live performance, this isn’t simply committing songs to record; ‘Primrose Green’ depicts him.  Ryley Walker routes songs through the triumphs of traditional folk music whilst bringing his own kind of wildness to the table, giving way to something that stands out in finger-picking guitar today and stands with other present greats like Daniel Bachman and Cian Nugent.   Since the age of 21 Walker has been recording material after some hard grafting on his Guild D-35, he's put out records on Plustapes, Tompkins Square and Agenda.  Dead Oceans got behind ‘Primrose Hill’ and as charming as the title sounds it obscures a dark pull within these 10 new songs.  Recorded at Minbal Studios where Walker is based, Chicago, it is hard not to sense real penchant for pastoral sounds and a sense of breaking free from that too.  The album preceding ‘Primrose Hill’ called  ‘All Kinds of You’, stayed true to rustic folk and while this new LP leads neatly on from there it departs mainly with some Jazz elements brought to the fore by some musicians invited to perform;  Fred Lonberg-Holm (Cello), Frank Rosaly (Drums), Jason Adasiewicz (Vibraphone) and Anton Hatwich (Double Bass).   

Opener ‘Primrose Hill’ fittingly introduces his rambling approach and sharpened artist vision.  ‘On The Banks Of The Old Kishwaukee’ carries the familiarity of an age old ditty in how succinctly sage it is.  “On the banks of the Old Kishwaukee, I saw you there getting, getting baptized by your Daddy when all the love was there, have you heard the way they love you, have you heard their song, have you heard the way they hold you, when you’re right you’re wrong,” Walker delivers in his distinct vocal address.  It’s pretty clear Walker’s lyrics are sparked from personal experience, in this case seeing people being baptized in Rock River, Northern Illinois where he grew up.  Throughout ‘Primrose Hill’ one can’t help but feel Walker has this reckless itch to scratch and he gets there on my favourite song ‘Sweet Satisfaction’.  Changing things up Walker plays an electric guitar and it just gnaws its way through the softer sounds from acoustic instruments.  The freely roving tones chewing through the track add something exhilarating to the album especially as the song builds to its charged climax.  ‘Primrose Hill’ explores beauty and desperation driven by surviving in districts of American detritus, I said at the start this album captures Ryley Walker as he his – he’s clearly studied folk guitar exhaustively and after accomplishing playing it, seems like he wants to wrestle with it too.  Folk is what speaks to Walker but there’s an unrest, something unsettled and more savage at play and this is why he is an interesting figure, and this is why I can’t wait for you to hear ‘Primrose Hill’.

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