Ryley Walker - Golden Sings That Have Been Sung album review

Third album from acclaimed US jazz-folkie Ryley Walker.

Ryley Walker - Golden Sings That Have Been Sung album artwork

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Robert Plant and double-bass legend Danny Thompson are fans of this 26-year-old singer-songwriter from Rockford, Illinois, and it is easy to see why from his 2015 album of sun-dappled jazzy folk-pop, Primrose Green. There were some accusations that Walker was too in hock to his heroes, but the beauty of his music is that he creates a world, intricately realised from forensic scrutiny of his favourite early-70s albums, and immerses himself in it, making every element adapt to his vision. On this follow-up, produced by sometime Wilco multi-instrumentalist LeRoy Bach, you can still hear Walker’s love of British jazz-folk, of Van Morrison, Drake and Martyn, but also of Tim Buckley circa Blue Afternoon, just as he flew into the free jazz ether with Starsailor.

The softness of the richly detailed arrangements flatter to deceive – turn up the volume and you’re hit by how jarring and prog they are. Walker admits he’s dealing with “negative, dark things in my life” but these are reduced to wisps of beat poetry while his vocals suggest someone willing himself back to another time, another place. On The Great And Undecided, he sings ‘My friend was a midnight rider.’ You’ll suspend disbelief because it’s so intoxicating.

Paul Lester is the editor of Record Collector. He began freelancing for Melody Maker in the late 80s, and was later made Features Editor. He was a member of the team that launched Uncut Magazine, where he became Deputy Editor. In 2006 he went freelance again and has written for The Guardian, The Times, the Sunday Times, the Telegraph, Classic Rock, Q and the Jewish Chronicle. He has also written books on Oasis, Blur, Pulp, Bjork, The Verve, Gang Of Four, Wire, Lady Gaga, Robbie Williams, the Spice Girls, and Pink.