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Ryley Walker: Primrose Green

llinois troubadour delivers a prog-folk highlight for 2015.

From time to time, an artist comes from nowhere, and immediately makes it seem as if they’ve been here forever.

Then you learn about their struggles and the sonic ingredients in the back story, and the plot thickens fascinatingly. Illinois’ Ryley Walker has reared himself on a diet rich with British folk explorers from Drake to Jansch, with a previous album, All Kinds Of You, already in his back pocket. But what’s exciting is that he’s far from being just another next-generation wannabe. Primrose Green is an exhilarating blend of British and American tradition, from the clanking piano mystique of its romantic title track to the Tim Buckley-evoking Summer Dress. Walker’s Guild D-35 guitar is a vital part of the imaginative instrumentation, which sometimes evokes the pastoral folk-rock spectrum – from Fleetwood Mac to The Byrds – but with real contemporary smarts. His strong, well-structured songs have room to breathe: the wordless Griffiths Bucks Blues is a potent mix of that guitar with violin riding sidesaddle, and the likes of Love Can Be Cruel shimmer with fiery spontaneity. It appears we have a charismatic 20-something troubadour in our midst.