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coverpic flag US - Illinois - Full Moon 246 - 09/16/16

Ryley Walker
Golden Sings That Have Been Sung
Dead Oceans

'In November 2015, at the end of a ten month period which saw him play over 200 shows, Ryley Walker decided that he should probably head home. However you wished to measure it, he was surely due some sort of holiday. The preceding months had been extraordinary. In March, his second album Primrose Green, emerged to critical hosannas [...] in the process, earning admiration of musicians who had chalked up no shortage of turntable miles in Walker's life. Robert Plant declared himself a fan - as did double-bass legend Danny Thompson, with whom Ryley would later embark on a British tour. For all of that, a holiday was the last thing on Ryley's mind - and certainly not a holiday in his adopted hometown. After a year spent on the road, all that Ryley could associate with Chicago was the emotional debris he had left behind.' (Dead Oceans).

Primrose Green was one of the loveliest, most beautiful and comfortable albums of 2015. Now, as Walker has sorted out the 'emotional debris', here's the 'difficult' follow-up to his break-through - Walker's third album Golden Sings That Have Been Sung. More golden songs coming at us. The album's been already hailed (as its predecessor was), saying that songwriter/artist Walker ' only just getting started, and the next album or the one after that might be his masterpiece' (The Line of Best Fit web magazine), or that Walker has 'a risky, high-wire way to make songs, but [Walker] is brave enough to try, and skilled enough to succeed this well' (The Independent, UK). First single off the album, The Halfwit In Me is solid proof of his eminent songwriting and performance skills.

Walker threw a great gig (well, probably one of several, as he's been a frequent visitor in Oslo) at one of Oslo's smaller venues (Cafe Mono) in Februray with a Norwegian rhythm section. His presentation of songs from Primrose Green (as well as some older and some newer songs) showed top class. I guess he'll perform bigger venues next time around, because the songs on Golden Sings That Have Been Sung is even as (or maybe more) golden than his back catalogue. It all starts with the aforementioned "The Halfwit..." which strolling over a green heather in a uncomplicated, care-free, and eternally optismistic style. A sunny heather, that is. "A Choir Apart" continues the plesant, quiet run through a field warmed by a breeze of joyous, acoustic/electric folk music with small hints of a jazz vibe. Not jazz as 'jazz' - as a spastic, ryhthmic, experimental kind, just of the free-floating improvisional.... There's a clear touch of 70s folk music here, but everything's put in a modern setting. This is 2016, mind you.

>Golden Sings... holds 9 tracks, and they all fit neatly together as a 'team'. "Sullen Mind" is one of the true stand-out tracks, and I'm pretty sure he played this song at the gig in February. "The Roundabout" is another fine, swaying and happy-sad song. The epic "Age Old Tale" stretch out for over 8 minutes, taking us far off to a magical mystery place from where Walker unveils his enchantingly slow and careful tale. Well, regarding the nine tracks: the 9th is an eeeextended live take on "Sullen Mind" (from Sirius XM) - a whirling, 41-minute(!) extravaganza-bonanza (which could've been a 'stretch-mix' by Jim O'Rourke). Probably a new world record 'bonus' track, or what? Ryley Walker takes us down his personal 'memory lane', or rather, his memory back-alleys or up and down exciting dead-end streets strolls. At times (well, at least during the live version of "Sullen Mind", that is) I come to think of pioneering psych-band Kaleidoscope - namely Kaleidoscope, USA (David Lindley's first band), not Kaleidscope, UK. And, yes, while I mention them, you'd better go check out their first albums, Side Trips (1967) or A Beacon from Mars (1968) - or their fine 1983 compilation album, Rampé, Rampé. But where Kaleidoscope sent beacons from Mars, Walker sends beacons from bars and places (f.i. J&M Tap, a.k.a. the Secret Squirrel?) around the Chicago area. Earlier I've metioned folk-rock artists John Martyn and Bert Jansch as references. Maybe you could add Tim Buckley meets Richard Thompson as well. Walker is an outstanding (fingerpicking) guitarist and he's got a voice that carries his songs superbly. Golden Sings That Have Been Sung was produced by Wilco's multi-instrumentalist (and fellow Chicagoan) LeRoy Bach, which also adds his playing skills (such as clarinet, electric piano, and lap steel guitar) to the album. The album is said to be 'very much born of the windy city', and is a step further from Primrose Green. Golden Sings... is highly recommneded as a soundtrack to the upcoming autumn/fall season. Raga man Walker.

Copyright © 2016 Håvard Oppøyen e-mail address

You may also want to check out our Ryley Walker articles/reviews: Primrose Green, The Halfwit In Me.

© 2016 Luna Kafé