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coverpic flag US - Illinois - Full Moon 228 - 04/04/15

Ryley Walker
Primrose Green
Dead Oceans

The Dead Oceans label say that 'Ryley Walker is the reincarnation of the true American guitar player'. Armed with his Guild D-35 (which has 'endured a few stints in the pawnshop' according to the label) he recently uveiled his second album, Primrose Green. Less than a year since his first album proper from last year's April, All Kinds of You (on Tompkins Square) which followed up his (long) EP West Wind from the year before. And, yes the productive and creative 25-year-old had already put out a couple of cassette-only releases back in 2011; Evidence of Things Unseen and Of Deathly Premonitions (the latter in collaboration with another young guitarist, Daniel Bachman). Walker had improved his fingerpicking, string plucking technique by lacquering his fingertips! Just to get the proper tone and aggressive touch not possible to do with naked fingertips. So, when Dead Oceans say that '...a short lifetime of interminable practice and discipline have resulted in a masterpiece of an album...', I'm eager to check it out.

Walker and his band of players write and perform what sounds like vintage folk rock, late 1960s/early 1970s style. He's inspired by some English artists from the past, but... he's not Anglophilic only, as there are Americana and US folk rooted in his music. His guitar playing is compared to American artists/players like Tim Buckley, Sandy Bull, and John Fahey, plus Brits like John Martyn, Davey Graham, and (the Scot) Bert Jansch and John Renbourn of Pentangle. Musically, Primrose Green criss-cross the genre lines between folk - old and new; rock - vintage as well as modern; and jazz - the experimental folk version. Somewhat freaked and far-out, and somewhat... uuh... 'psychedelic'. But most of the time relaxed and down-to-earth, even though the term 'Primrose Green' is 'a colloquial term for a cocktail of whiskey and Morning Glory seeds that has a murky, dreamy, absinthian quality when imbibed, and a spirit-crushing aftereffect the morning after'. Hair of the dog, etc. ... Names that flow in the air when Ryley Walker is about to being filed are Van Morrison, Tim Buckley, Nick Drake, and John Martyn, plus bands like Pentangle and Fairport Convention. The laidback feel and the vibe of the songs are indeed comforting. Again, quoting Dead Oceans: 'The title sounds pastoral and quaint, but the titular green has dark hallucinogenic qualities, as does much of the LP.'

The band is (to quote Dead Oceans) '...a mixture of new and old Chicago talent, blending both jaded veterans of the post-rock and jazz mini-circuits together with a few eager, open-eared youths'. His players/cohorts are: Brian J. Sulpizio on guitar and Ben Boye on piano/keys/harmonium (a twosome A.K.A. Health & Beauty, while Boye has been part of The Cairo Gang), Fred Lonberg-Holm (cello), Frank Rosaly (drums), Jason Adasiewicz (vibraphone), Anton Hatwich (double bass), and Whitney Johnson (viola, backing vocals) - while recording engineer and producer has been Cooper Crain (who's a member of Cave, and the founder of Bitchin' Bajas -- both from the Drag City roster). An ace team, it sounds like by judging the result.

Well, Dead Oceans...they're right. Again. As they almost always are. Again and again. 'His personal life might be tumultuous and his residential status in question, but his bedrock is disciplined daily rehearsal and an inexhaustible wellspring of songcraft'. Primrose Green sounds both old-fashioned and all fresh and new. Vintage modern. Modern vintage. This is a collection of vibrant and stingy songs, lively and energetically performed. Comfortingly gently spiralling and swirling, and almost breathtakingly beautiful at times. Enter the chill zone. This is a bohemian rhapsody in blue, or green.

Copyright © 2015 Håvard Oppøyen e-mail address

You may also want to check out our Ryley Walker articles/reviews: Golden Sings That Have Been Sung, The Halfwit In Me.

© 2015 Luna Kafé