Ryley Walker

Golden Sings That Have Been Sung

Dead Oceans

Aug 15, 2016 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share


Following the release of All Kinds of You (2014) and Primrose Green (2015), Midwestern troubadour Ryley Walker was met with near universal praise for his fingerpicking dexterity and ability to weave disparate strands of folk, jazz, and blues into a coherent whole. However, more than a few critical doubts were also raised regarding Walker's unabashed indebtedness to the likes of John Martyn, Bert Jansch, and Tim Buckley.

Though the same influences still loom large (especially Martyn's fluid, seamless blending of genres, as well as his balance of muscularity and sensitivity), Walker's latest, Golden Sings That Have Been Sung, goes a long way toward establishing a sound and persona that's unique to the singer/songwriter. Lyrically, he can be clumsy, but his bewilderment is compelling, and the vulnerability and frankness on display throughout Golden Sings lends his compositions a newfound warmth and weight. The voice he's forged here is part self-deprecating jester, part bruised romantic. He's at his best when discovering a unity between these two halves, as on "The Roundabout," a merry and misty-eyed ode to good times in substandard pubs. When Walker sings "Can I buy you a drink?/My credit is quite shit/We can all laugh and have tap water," it's off-the-cuff funny and disarming in a way that his prior efforts would have never allowed for.

This time around, he's also extending his reach as a composer, and successfully complicating his relationship with vintage Brit folk. "Sullen Mind" subtly expands upon his signature sound, while the moody underpinnings of "The Great and Undecided" recall post-rock at its most organic (likely no accident, as Walker honed his chops as a youth improvising with lynchpins of Chicago's hallowed experimental scene). But it's the amorphous, genre-less closer "Age Old Tale" which, rather promisingly, represents a final surge into the unknown. (www.ryleywalker.com)

Author rating: 7/10

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