Ryley Walker - Primrose Green

by Rob Taylor Rating:8.5 Release Date:2015-04-05

Being derivative is imitating the work of another, but what if you’re simply an adherent to the style, and you seek to emulate and expand upon it. What if you have prodigious gifts as a singer-songwriter, and your influences flow through the songwriting process?

Sure, when Primrose Green came on for the first time, I thought I’d left a CD from my Elektra Records Forever Changing boxset in the player by mistake. Sure, I immediately dug out my Tim Hardin, Nick Drake, Tim Buckley, and Dave Van Ronk records, and sure, I went looking for Van Morrison but realised I didn’t have any, because I don’t like him. The point is, Ryley can have the pretence (possibly given to him when his parents misspelled his name) because he has the ability.

There are many who also think he’s a gifted troubadour. The Chicago native has assembled a cast of jazz musicians to flesh out the folk underbelly of the songs, and there’s no subtlety about the way they embrace this task.

The baroque sound is beautifully rendered throughout Primrose Green. The jazzy inflections provide both body and substance to Walker’s noteworthy songwriting. The range of instrumentation includes guitar; piano; drums; upright bass; vibraphone; cello, and double bass. Rather than just lending sophistication, these instruments compliment an essentially progressive folk sound.  

The guitar work and voice of Walker, particularly on ‘Hide in the Roses’, reminded me of Songs: Ohia’s Jason Molina, especially in the intonation of his voice, as much as it did Nick Drake or Tim Buckley. While the voice isn’t that strong yet, the proficiency of the backing group carry it through.

With oodles of talent to spare, Walker’s living the life of Ryley, and that’s just fine.

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