“Two parts old grandad whiskey,
one part water distilled with
Morning glory seeds,
Wait ten minutes,
Light a cigarette.”
Fresh as a sweet sunday morning but with with a belly full of wine, Ryley Walker is actually tastier and more intense than the recipe above. His record is an invitation to bucolic landscapes, crisp air, endless fields and rural legends (as opposed to urban ones). The songwriter’s painterly eye enables the listener to feel relaxed and invigorated, one can almost feel the smell of grass and that slight breeze in your hair.
As earthy, pastoral and diaphanous as the opener and title track "Primrose Green" may sound, there are other sides to this Illinois native. He is at crossroads musically, the dignified heir of a long tradition of folk troubadours and innovators, both technically and spiritually.
Walker’s kind of melancholy and dexterous fingerpicking evoke Scottish legend Bert Jansch. Although underrated, the latter has influenced a myriad of seminal artists, such as Nick Drake. Like Jansch, The Illinois native’s guitar style is the key to his universe and a major means of expression, his instrument does not only utter melodies, it tells thorough tales.
He fully wields his guitar and wears his heart on his sleeve. Immerse yourself in those chords, they are infused with poetry, the colorful stories of a loner and adventurer, one who can’t tell if he’s been blessed or cursed and says the truth he's carrying in his heart like a hidden treasure. The instrumental “Griffiths Bucks Blues” makes a spot on piece of folklore with its cinematic dimension.
His vocal prowess is astonishing and matches his guitar work. When he gets all fired up, he sounds as lyrical as Tim Buckley. His pitch, gimmicks and arrangements inevitably lead to Buckley Senior. The flamboyant “Summer Dress” incorporates the mystery, sweet euphoria and jazzy sensuality of “Strange Feelin’”.
"On the banks of the old Kishwaukee" brings to mind the classic book Trout Fishing in America. Oddly enough, Ryley Walker hails from Rockford, IL, where the literary journal Kumquat Meringue, dedicated to the memory and work of Richard Brautigan, was published.
Different crafts and generations, same howling spirit. Primrose Green is a poignant mosaic of pastoral ‘Merica, a record that transcends genres and gets right to the listener’s soul. This machine kills fascists.
Primrose Green was released on Dead Oceans.