Nick Bollinger uncovers the neo-folk-jazz of Rock River's Ryley Walker.
Ryley Walker is a twenty-five year-old singer and guitarist who lives in Chicago. He started out in his teens playing punk and experimental music but has ended up in a very different place. His new album took me straight back to the late sixties, when bands like Pentangle were forging their original fusion of folk and jazz.
Walker is an excellent acoustic guitarist with a muscular, rhythmically refined style, reminiscent of John Fahey, Davey Graham and Bert Jansch. On All Kinds Of You, his solo debut from last year, he often seemed to be paying explicit homage to one or other of this progressive-folk trinity, but his new album steps away from solo virtuoso mode, setting the guitar at the centre of a group that includes a swinging section of jazzy drums and double bass, piano, cello and occasional vibraphone, with an increasing emphasis on Walker’s voice. I’d bet money that he’s been listening to the records John Martyn made in the early-70s and there’s more than a trace of Tim Buckley here too, though he doesn’t have the extraordinary pipes of a Buckley.
While it is tempting to hear Primrose Green as an exercise in retro – something that is encouraged by the quasi-60s cover design - there is actually nothing old-fashioned about it. Rather, Walker has gone back to a style that was outlined and abandoned, to see if there is somewhere further that style can still be taken. He finds there is.
Songs Featured: Primrose Green, Love Can Be Cruel, Griffiths Buck Blues, Same Mibds, All Kinds Of You, Summer Dress