Published Mar 31, 2015Chicago folk guitarist Ryley Walker belongs to the new school of finger pickers — one that includes the likes of Steve Gunn, William Tyler and Daniel Bachman — that owes as much to the 1960s British folk revival as it does to La Monte Young and the Grateful Dead. His guitar playing has the odd pairing of sounding both heavy and nimble, a quality that allows his intricate tangled picking to stand out even in the context of a heavy feedback jam. His vocals are sparse; lyrics come more in howls and poetic rambles than articulated messages. He gives off the vibe of a fun-loving type who might own a Westfalia, Birkenstocks and probably at least one patchouli-scented poncho, although his music hits a far more solemn vein.
Primrose Green is loud folk music, if there ever was such a thing. Emulating the vocal style and melancholy disposition of legendary Scottish guitarist Bert Jansch, and maybe even a bit of his accent, too, along with the out-jazz leanings of Pentangle, Walker is undoubtedly a student of Jansch's music. But with a background as a noise musician, and a team of top Chicago post rock and jazz players in tow, he's picking up where his influences left off and mining a new kind of future folk.
The diversity of the players can especially be heard on the six-minute folk epic "Sweet Satisfaction," a song that ventures from laidback jazz-folk territory to a borderline noise jam and finally into a vast, Grateful Dead-style soundscape. There's a certain organic element to these songs; nothing feels overly rigid or formulaic, but nothing feels tossed off, either. This gives the music a plain sense of honesty that compels listeners to really want to like this guy and the stuff he's telling you about, even if lyrically, it doesn't seem to mean all that much. (Dead Oceans)