Posts Tagged ‘Ryley Walker’

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.

Charles Rumback and Ryley Walker are both known for their creativity and curious spirits. Rumback is a drummer in high demand in Chicago’s free-jazz circles, and a pillar of the second wave of improvisers in a scene first shaped by the legendary players like Sun Ra and other members of the AACM. Walker draws deeply on other distinctly American styles, bringing a strong sense of folk tradition to his playing that is as arresting as his freewheeling performance style. Together, Rumback and Walker find common ground in their kinetic, intuitive playing and yearning creative outlook.

Little Common Twist, their sophomore release as a duo, finds both players at their most adventurous. It compiles instrumental pieces that convey a striking range of emotions, at once introspective and expansive, with a delicate interplay that delights as they move with ease across a spectrum of styles. The recording has a pastoral quality that recalls Van Morrison ’s classic album Veedon Fleece , and captures a remarkably dexterous performance by both Charles and Ryley that make this album so expansive and fresh. Little Common Twist was recorded over several sessions throughout 2017 and 2018 with producer John Hughes , capturing the duo playing in the moment with minimal overdubs. The guitar and drums duo eschewed each instrument’s traditional roles of rhythm and melody, experimenting with texture and rhythm. This album is the culmination of a creative partnership that has seen Rumback and Walker constantly challenging each other. In stretching the bounds of their interplay even further than before, the duo created their most evocative and expansive work to date, conjuring the afterglow of sun-scorched landscapes and ethereal after-hours ambience.

Charles Rumback and Ryley Walker are both known for their creativity and curious spirits. Rumback is a drummer in high demand in Chicago’s free-jazz circles, and a pillar of the second wave of improvisers in a scene first shaped by the legendary players like Sun Ra and the AACM. Walker draws deeply on other distinctly American styles, bringing a strong sense of folk tradition to his playing that is as arresting as his freewheeling performance style. Walker’s musical explorations are not limited to his own songwriting: the guitarist regularly collaborates in Chicago and now New York with innovators of every genre. Together, Rumback and Walker find common ground in their kinetic, intuitive playing and yearning creative outlook. “Little Common Twist”, their sophomore release as a duo, finds both players at their most adventurous. It compiles instrumental pieces that convey a striking range of emotions, at once introspective and expansive, with a delicate interplay that delights as they move with ease across a spectrum of styles. The recording has a pastoral quality that recalls Van Morrison’s classic album Veedon Fleece, and captures a remarkably dexterous performance by both Charles and Ryley that make this album so expansive and fresh.

Little Common Twist was recorded over several sessions throughout 2017 and 2018 with producer John Hughes, capturing the duo playing in the moment with minimal overdubs. The guitar and drums duo eschewed each instrument’s traditional roles of rhythm and melody, experimenting with texture and rhythm. Rumback and Walker remarkably paint in both broad, gestural strokes and intricate melodic details. “Half Joking” and “Self Blind Sun” are warm, deep songs that draw on structures from the American primitive guitar songbook. “Idiot Parade” leaps into more explorative territory, Rumback setting an urgent, rolling cymbal groove while Walker paints melodic sonic vapor trails across the sky. “Menehbi” experiments further with abstract forms, atomizing guitar and drums into an ambient haze where loose flourishes from Rumback hint at rhythm and structure, while a steady electronic pulse provides an anchor amidst the fog.

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Little Common Twist is the culmination of a creative partnership that has seen Rumback and Walker constantly challenging each other. In stretching the bounds of their interplay even further than before, the duo created their most evocative and expansive work to date, conjuring the afterglow of sun-scorched landscapes and ethereal after-hours ambiance.

Releases November 8th, 2019

On The Lillywhite Sessions, Ryley Walker and the similarly indebted trio of drummer Ryan Jewell and bassist Andrew Scott Young cover Dave Matthews’ infamously abandoned 2001 art-rock masterpiece of the same name, a record where he and his band indulged a new adult pathos and a budding musical wanderlust. With a delicate rhythmic latticework and vocals that ask you to lean in, Busted Stuff recalls Jim O’ Rourke’s golden Drag City days. Emerging from a wall of distortion, Diggin’ a Ditch becomes a power trio wallop à la Dinosaur Jr, shaking off existential malaise like twenty- something pals writing rock songs in the garage. Walker’s Grace is Gone, the most faithful take here, is a testament to his unflagging love for the music that helped make him a musician.

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This end-to-end interpretation of youthful fascination is a collective reminder that we are all just kids from somewhere, reckoning with our upbringing the best we can. Walker has stepped through the door long ago opened by the Dave Matthews Band to find a world teeming with musical possibilities. On The Lillywhite Sessions, he has, in turn, created his own.

Bill MacKay and Ryley Walker inspired collaboration continues with a 2nd volume of freshly baked tunes.
They call it, “SpideBeetlebee” , It’s been nearly two years since their much-admired 2015 debut, Land of Plenty (Whistler Records), and SpiderBeetleBee more than makes up for the long wait with a rich, resonant batch of performances that elevate the guitar duo’s sound into an ever-widening panorama of styles.

Their first album was developed over a month-long live residency at Chicago’s Whistler, reflecting MacKay and Walker‘s joy in their newly found playing relationship.As kindred spirits, they found in their playing the ability to wordlessly finish a phrase or suggest a direction while speaking solely through their guitars. SpiderBeetleBee continues fluidly through and beyond a similar path of psych-folk-blues-raga, brewing further explorations in mixed-and-matched idioms, turning composed melodies inside-out via improvisation, and finding in the blend a shared Walker/MacKay pasture, serendipitously located somewhere between Appalachian and the Highlands.
SpiderBeetleBee radiates forth with equal parts austerity and whimsy, as evidenced in the lead single “I Heard Them Singing”. Generating a nimble tempo with the aid of MacKay’s requinto (a kind of 5-string Mexican guitar), Walker’s rolling chords and the percolating tabla of Ryan Jewell, “I Heard Them Singing” suggests an unknown short-cut from Brazil to India!

Bill MacKay: 6 string guitar, requinto, glass slide
Ryley Walker: 6 & 12 string guitars

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While his previous output had unquestionably alerted the world to the musical talents of Ryley Walker, what they arguably lacked was enough of the man behind the music. That all changed with this year’s offering, Golden Sings That Have Been Sung. Moving away from the plaintive and sometimes pastoral imagery, this record seems to tap into the reality of Ryley’s life and his native Chicago. With the imagery of dive bars, friendships and the difficulty of being away from the world you know, Golden Sings That Have Been Sung feels like Ryley’s most honest work to date.

Musically too, Golden Sings is a record that feels more confident and ambitious. The hypnotic guitar work of The Halfwit In Me, the jazz-tinged percussion of Funny Thing She Said, this record sounds like a prodigious talent comfortable in the niche he has carved for himself. Best of all is The Roundabout, probably one of the most understated singles of the year; atop a bed of fluid guitar work, rolling bass and muted electronics, Ryley channels his inner Sixto Rodriguez as he lays to tape a tale of returning home from the road, drunken conversations with old friends and bad credit in your favourite bar. Whilst his self-deprecating lyrics might peg Ryley as a halfwit or a wise ass, listening to this record it is hard to see him as anything other than a star in the making.

Last year, Ryley Walker released “Primrose Green”, a contemporary folk-rock record tinged with jazz that garnered almost universal kudos. The Chicago singer-songwriter toured extensively – sometimes in the company of veteran double-bassist Danny Thompson – then headed home to record with Wilco collaborator LeRoy Bach. Accordingly, everything good about Walker steps up a gear on Golden Sings That Have Been Sung, which now boasts clarinets and a tinge of Red House Painters.

Golden Sings That Have Been Sung is out 19th August on Dead Oceans Records

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“The Roundabout” taken from ‘Golden Sings That Have Been Sung‘ by Ryley Walker, out August 19th, 2016 on Dead Oceans Records.

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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.

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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.

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“The Halfwit In Me” off of the new album ‘Golden Sings That Have Been Sung’ by Ryley Walker, out August 19th, 2016 on Dead Oceans Records.

Ryley Walker has announced the follow-up to 2015′s excellent Primrose Green. It was one of my favorites albums of 2015 . Every time I spin the Ryley album I get completely lost in the tapestry and textures of it all.

Based on the first track of the upcoming album, “The Halfwit In Me”, I don’t see this album letting me down in that regard. Here’s some more info on the backstory of “Golden Sings That Have Been Sung”.

In November 2015, at the end of a ten-month period which saw Ryley play over 200 shows all over the world in support of Primrose Green, Ryley decided that he should probably head home. He went into the studio over the Christmas vacation to record Golden Sings That Have Been Sung whose songs were directly wedded to Ryley’s return to Chicago. Some of his formative musical memories had been shaped by the work of pioneering Chicago acts such as Gastr del Sol and Tortoise. “Jeff Parker was the guitarist with Tortoise, and I used to listen to him a lot,” recalls Ryley, who figured that, for the first time in his career, it might be helpful to enlist the services of a producer. With only one person on his shortlist, once again, all roads led back to Chicago.

Ryley had been a long-time admirer of sometime Wilco multi-instrumentalist LeRoy Bach. Back in 2009, still in his teens, he had frequented the improv nights hosted by Bach at a restaurant/gallery space called Whistler. “For me, it was an incredible opportunity,” recalls Ryley, “…because you would sometimes also have Dan Bitney, the drummer with Tortoise, and I’d get to play with these people. I mean, they were twice my age. I’m sure they thought I was annoying at first, maybe some of them still do, but I kind of looked at them like gurus – and to have these old school Chicago heads taking me in was just amazing.”

For Ryley then, the prospect of having Bach produce his album was something of a no-brainer. “It was everything I wanted it to be,” he enthuses. “I would go to LeRoy’s house every other day with a riff, and we would take it from there.” Perhaps more than any other song on the record, the opening track and lead single “The Halfwit In Me” most audibly bear the imprint of those Whistler sessions.

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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.

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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.