Ryley Walker: The Lillywhite Sessions (Dead Oceans) Review | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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Ryley Walker

The Lillywhite Sessions

Dead Oceans

Nov 16, 2018 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

Indie-rock cognoscenti: did you know there is a Dave Matthews album by the name Lillywhite Sessions? Some quick history for the uninitiated:

● 1999: The Dave Matthews Band begin a follow-up to 1998’s Before These Crowded Streets with longtime producer Steve Lillywhite. The sessions are deemed unreasonably morose and scrapped by the band and RCA.

● 2001: A fan leaks the sessions online using a primitive dial-up modem (let’s say a 28K modem).

● 2004: Dave Matthews Band tour bus driver Stefan Wohl empties the vehicle’s septic tank over the Chicago River, splattering passengers formerly enjoying an architectural boat tour with 800 pounds of human waste.

● 2018: Ryley Walker, avant-folk guitar wizard, releases a song-for-song Lillywhite Sessions cover album, celebrating the DMB fandom that sparked his early love of music.

● 2018: Unwitting music reviewers jump at reviewing this tribute, forgetting Deafman Glance just came out and blissfully unaware of the source material.

It should be noted that Walker, while often framed as a modern progenitor of lofty traditions like American Primitive guitar, is exceptionally talented at taking the piss. A recent Vice interview documented his first exposure to Leonard Cohen’s Songs of Love and Hate (1971), and Walker’s flippancy with that particular sacred cow broke the music-jerk Internet. Of course, said music jerks would scoff at the mere mention of Dave Matthews Band, part of Walker’s point here (the press release laments Walker’s days as a closeted DMB fan, afraid people might think “he was an interloper in cloistered circles of cool”).

So while there is, without question, a wink, these covers come from a place of love. Walker’s hand is evident: these are post-rock and jazz-inflected interpretations of the material through a Chicago lens. At times the distortion’s kicked on (“Diggin’ a Ditch”), or things venture into broken free-jazz (“JTR”) or psychedelic madness (“Monkey Man”), but outside of the stylistic shifts the album plays it earnest. It often recalls the dry jazz-rock of The Sea and Cake (an impression driven home by Ryan Jewell’s airy drumming as much as Walker’s chord vocabulary and subdued vocals). The success of any tribute album is paying said tribute and introducing a new crowd to the source material, however reluctantly. One could say here-one must; one apologizes-that music snobs are on an architectural boat tour of their own, and Ryley Walker is an avant-garde-guitar Stefan Wohl, unleashing a septic tank of 800 pounds of human waste upon their refined proceedings. (www.ryleywalker.com)

Author rating: 6.5/10

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Average reader rating: 4/10


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November 19th 2018

You just couldn’t review this without bringing up what DMB’s friggin’ BUS DRIVER did in Chicago, could you? Jesus, you people are shallow. Dave & Co. deserve better than your critic’s snobbery. They don’t get to choose who packs their concert venues, and they weren’t driving that bus. Back off them.

November 19th 2018

I mean SERIOUSLY. What possible bearing does that episode have on this review? You just hate them, and so you perpetuate this ridiculous notion that they somehow sanctioned that unfortunate event. I seriously hope nobody associated with you ever does something wrong without asking you first, because obviously you’ll be the one to blame for their free will.

Metal Roofs
February 4th 2019

I do enjoy this album!