Posts Tagged ‘Primrose Green’


There are many good singers, many more good writers of songs. More than enough to fill entire festivals with them year-round, to stuff streaming sites with more than anyone can listen to. But among that vast number, there are a tiny few in whom you can sense that something else, that spark, that undergirding realness, that makes their performance more than just-singing or just-playing-guitar. To see Ryley Walker perform is to experience a man singing to somewhere else, sending sound out to and for souls long since gone. That voice, that sound of his, the ecstatic yelps, those long, punch-drunk runs, threatening to split apart but never quite doing it, is singular. It may resonate with you, or it may not, but if it doesn’t, the thing missing in the equation is what you’re putting into it, not him.

This show at Baby’s All Right, finds him at an interesting point. Primrose Green, his tour-de-force second record, has already found itself hailed in all the right places, turning Walker into a critical darling seemingly overnight.  It’s hard to know what the effect of the crowds might be on this man, this music that requires him to give so much of himself emotionally every night. There are too many tales about how this part of the music world has split women and men in half.


But our best evidence about Ryley’s part of this story is this night at Baby’s All Right, in a jammed show room on a Sunday night. The 38 minutes of this set consist of just four songs, played this time with a band consisting of Ryley’s Chicago-based musician colleagues on second guitar, upright bass, and keys . The foursome appeared, as far as I know, only in Chicago and at this New York date — D.C. two nights before was a threesome (minus upright bass), as was Philadelphia just before the Brooklyn show — but their playing reminds you how well they know this material. The band weaved around Ryley’s lead as they reinterpreted Primrose Green songs that most of these fans probably haven’t heard original versions of yet on record. These weren’t idle-minded jams, either, but successful experiments, one after the other, from the new “Funny Thing She Said”, to tour staple “Summer Dress”, to “Primrose Green” to Ryley’s go-to cover song of late, Van Morrison’s “Fair Play” from Veedon Fleece. Shaved, hair clipped, wearing a collar and sweater that even had Ryley laughing at himself, Walker played with all the intensity he’s mustered every time we’ve seen him, but there was a new assuredness there, too, an ability to pull back just when he needed to. These thirty-eight minutes were like all of his sets I have seen: a thing of beauty, something memorable, something unique.

If you go to see one new artist this year because you read about them on this site, I hope Ryley Walker is the one. Nobody, not even him, knows where his story is headed. But this set proved once again where he deserves to be.

A modern day classic in the style of “Solid Air”; finds Ryley Walker roaming through languid folk-jazz with rich instrumentation and deft improvisation.

Ryley Walker’s Primrose Green is the guitarist’s second LP in less than a year, and he’s already gotten way better. Last year’s All Kinds Of You was a good meditative folk record. Primrose Green has that, too, but it also has highlights like “Summer Dress” and “Love Can Be Cruel,” songs that incorporate jazz and psychedelia, unfolding into strange and exhilarating passages. It has roots in the British jazz-folk of the ’70s, but in 2015 it feels like it’s born from some other place entirely, or at least from Walker’s custom cocktail for which the album’s titled: whiskey with morning glory seeds.

Summoning up the spirit of songwriting past masters, Primrose Green takes elements of Van Morrision, Nick Drake, John Martyn and more without ever descending into pastiche – instead it’s a cosmic journey into jazz-inflected summertime rock and roll. The instrumentation positively dances amid brass, organ and fancy fret-work while the dizzying Sweet Satisfaction extends proceedings into a darker, rampaging terrain.


Ryley Walker ”Sweet Satisfaction”(from Primrose Green)

”I came up with that in the middle of winter in a desolate Chicago last year, it gets really cold there, way below zero, three feet of snow, dangerous to go outside. I think it’s kind of a cover poet drunk song, a desperate song. You have seven or eight drinks and all of a sudden you think you’re this poet and can reach into a woman’s heart with this poem. It comes from that standing point. A drunk leaning against the wall poet. We had to cut that song down, because originally it was like fifteen minutes long. Maybe in the box set in twenty years! I like that version better but the label thought there was no room left on the record. We had to edit out that jam section in the end. It went on forever, not in a bad way, I thought it was pretty cool with the strings and that bit that sounded like Terry Riley.”

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 Ryley Walker released the first video in a series of performances from the 2015 Pickathon festival Woods Stage. The videos showcase some of the most exciting performances from this summer’s festival, held at Pendarvis Farm just outside Portland, Oregon.

On the first day of the festival, Chicago Illinois native Ryley Walker brought his distinct brand of jazz- and psychedelic-rock-inspired folk music to the Woods Stage, a picturesque pavilion nestled in a holler and made out of twisted twigs and trees. Here, Walker performs an extended version of “Summer Dress” from his classic 2015 album, Primrose GreenRyley Walker‘s extended jams are becoming part of his legacy as he continues his extensive touring.

Ryley Walker is not of this time. Drawing likely comparisons to Tim Buckley, John Martyn and Nick Drake for his fingerpicked folk guitar style, Ryley Walker’s sophomore LP, “Primrose Green”, is less a collection of songs than it is a series of esoteric compositions culled from the ether of yore.

More bandleader than frontman, Walker isn’t burdened by traditional narrative structures; rather, the Chicago-by-way-of-Rockford, Illinois guitar picker and his band of Windy City musicians incorporate lyrical fragments into their alchemy of sound to create a series of mood pieces that flit on a wind, catching one’s ear in passing. Lyrics serve to reflect and reinforce a particular composition’s tone as much as they are used as vocal cues to the musicians working alongside Walker.

Primrose Green‘s folk influence is most present when Walker takes the lead as on the blossoming interlude, Upholding his place alongside the likes of contemporary William Tyler, Walker represents the past yin to Tyler’s futuristic yang.

Ryley Walker performing live in the KEXP studio. Recorded July 22, 2014.

The West Wind
Summer Dress
Clear The Sky
Go Your Way My Love

The French website La Blogothèque has been on a roll lately with its Take Away Shows video series, in which we see artists playing live and unplugged and in natural light. The latest participant is Chicago’s Ryley Walker, whose album recently released “Primrose Green”, a lovely album of ornate ’70s-style psych-folk, earlier this week. The La Blogothèque crew filmed him playing his own songs Primrose Green and “Summer Dress” and then covering Van Morrison’s 1974 song Fair Play at a Parisian house party. Ryley Walker is a beast of a guitarist and singer, and that really comes across in his performances. Watch the three videos below.

Thee voice of Ryley Walker invokes beautiful ghosts. Strummed a few chords, barely launched a couplet, and the air thickened by the presence of misty long admired artists. Ryley can cultivate the patience of a Van Morrisson, the delicacy of the guitar playing of Bert Jansch, and knows from crazy in flights as only Tim Buckley knew to do.


Is twenty-four too young to really know evil, to make heartbreak sound believable? Ryley Walker is that age. Define it by whatever trope you must, but Ryley Walker performs with a rugged grace and gut-wrenching, soul-searching level of realness that don’t come to men his age all that often. He sat down, at the rightmost end of a semicircle on Fletcher Opera Theater’s broad stage, as the final act to play there during this Hopscotch Music Festival. By the time he got up I felt a way that I hadn’t quite since seeing Hiss Golden Messenger take that same stage with a large band two years before. I don’t put any artist in the company of HGM lightly, but there I believe Ryley sits. He’s that good, the real deal, all of the great things it’s even possible to be when you’re sitting on just one album of “this kind” of material (Ryley’s previous work fell more to the experimental/noise end of the spectrum).

That LP, All Kinds of You, just arrived this April, but that material has new company in the incredibly strong output which dominated this set. Ryley Walker led off with a new song, followed by his first single, “The West Wind”, before heading into the gorgeous “Primrose Green”. Walker has already earned comparisons to Bert Jansch and Tim Buckley, and his current sound has a classicism to it that makes that fair. Ryley Walker huddled in his chair like an older man, taking long breaks between songs to get his tuning right, maybe set his head straight for the next song. Walker sings with depth, in a way that makes each song seem like it takes its own reserve of him. Away from the mic, he’s as amiable as a person comes; faced with his songs he’s transformed. These are songs that operate at some remove from even updated versions of traditional sounds  Kudos belong to Walker’s band, too, which includes a killer roster of players who give these songs not only shape but a live fluidity that makes them all the more special.


01 Summer Dress
02 The West Wind
03 Primrose Green
04 Hide In the Roses
05 Love Can Be Cruel
06 On the Banks of the Old Kishwaukee
07 Same Minds
08 Sweet Satisfaction

The Band:
Ryley Walker – vocals, guitar
Ben Boye – keys
Anton Hatwich – bass
Brian Sulpizio – electric guitar
Frank Rosaly – drums
Jeb Bishop – trombone on final song

We owe a large dose of gratitude to North Carolina-based taper Larry Tucker for recording and contributing this outstanding capture, made with Peluso American-made cardiod microphones and a soundboard feed. The quality is outstanding. Enjoy!


It seems only appropriate to post another recording of Ryley Walker, This singer songwriter guitar virtuoso represents among the very finest of their time, his authenticity, and an amazing understanding of their musical past, and honest songwriting. My first experience with Ryley Walker was the song “Primrose Green”. Here, at the Rough Trade Venue, Ryley Walker proved himself alone (with a supporting bassist for part of the set). More to the point, Ryley proved himself an unmitigated master of his art, far beyond his years in poise and style.


Most CMJ sets tend to be truncated versions of artists’ “best stuff”, run through in perfunctory fashion to get the most bang for the buck in terms of setlist. Ryley Walker saw things differently, leading off with a twelve-minute, spine-tingling “Summer Dress” that equaled about a third of the set. That time wasn’t wasted, either, as Walker soared on improvised vocal runs that took the song beyond the singer-songwriter realm into something spiritual, his voice becoming its own instrument rather than the mere vessel of lyrics. As with the bulk of the set in North Carolina back in September, this focused entirely on new material in lieu of Walker’s outstanding album of earlier this year “All Kinds of You”. That alone should say something about how prolific this artist is at this point. The ability of the young Chicagoan to distill such pain and emotion into his work is a humbling surprise, the kind of thing you’d never guess from the rest of his happy-go-lucky stage persona. This is a man possessed of rare gifts, and we cannot wait to see them brought to a wider world.

01 Summer Dress
02 The West Wind
03 [banter1]
04 Primrose Green
05 [banter2]
06 Sweet Satisfaction

The set recorded primarily with a soundboard feed by Rough Trade engineer Cam, with a small amount of Schoeps audience microphones added for ambiance. Other than a few glitches with a DI during one song, the sound is excellent. Enjoy, and spread the word! of this superb musician.


Ryley Walker is the reincarnation of the true American guitar player. That’s as much a testament to his roving, rambling ways, or the fact that his Guild D-35 guitar has endured a few stints in the pawnshop. Swap out rural juke joints for rotted DIY spaces and the archetype is solidly intact. His personal life might be tumultuous and his residential status in question, but his bedrock is disciplined daily rehearsal and an inexhaustible wellspring of songcraft. The board was barely reset from the ‘All Kinds of You’ sessions before Ryley was corralling his by-then-rejiggered band back into Minbal studios in Chicago to solidify a totally new direction in his creative vision. ‘Primrose Green’ couldn’t be restrained. It begins near where ‘All Kinds of You’ leaves off but quickly pushes far afield. The title sounds pastoral and quaint, but the titular green has dark hallucinogenic qualities, as does much of the LP.


His full-length debut, ” All Kinds Of You”, came out less than a year ago, 25-year-old Ryley Walker is already returning with a follow up release titled  “Primrose Green” in April . Ryley Walker has been getting his fair share of positive attention, often focusing on his guitar playing and the unique and unpredictable forms his vocal melodies and song structures take. Despite being raised in the industrial Northern Illinois town of Rockford and cutting his teeth in Chicago’s noise-rock scene, the other constant with Walker is that people always want to compare him to ’60s and ’70s folk musicians like Nick Drake, Bert Jansch, John Martyn, and Tim Buckley. (more…)