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Alternative & Indie - Released May 18, 2018 | Dead Oceans

With his ragtag, big kid look, Ryley Walker seems to be emerging from an anything goes drinking party. But the young man has come a long way. Addictions, alcohol and drugs are but a recent memory. He decided to take charge of his own destiny, launch a transition phase that would eventually strip him from his 19-gin-and-tonic-Ryley nickname. Particularly gifted at guitar picking, he possesses a unique sense for musical phrase. With Deafman Glance, he detaches himself from his older image in a very personal album, probably the most autobiographic of all. Ryley Walker has always expressed a particular affection for Chicago. He enjoys the atmosphere created by the architecture, the dreary feel of the city, the oddities, the strong smells and pollution, the beauty in its imperfections… Deafman Glance probably draws from this Chicago sound that combines jazz, folk and psychedelic. The young artist dove into jazz improvisations, taking the time to soak in the notes before adding the vocals. It’s worth mentioning that Ryley Walker has acquired a certain musical maturity that helps him play with silences. As for the vocals, he opted for almost spoken lyrics in the mould of a Merle Haggard, but in his own dark and broken style. One can picture the artist wandering the dark streets of a city at night, before comforting himself with a few more joyful ballads. Deafman Glance immerses the listener in a world of quirky mysticism roamed by spellbinding guitar solos. Hence it comes as no surprise to learn that the artist draws inspiration from the likes of John Martyn, Bert Jansch, Nick Drake and Tim Buckley. However, he has the wonderful ability to blend cynical humour with psychedelic jazz ballads through wacky lyrics like on 22 Days: My life is chicken scratch, sometimes baby you can’t sell the same shit back. A form of burlesque poetry that perfectly befits the character and is reminiscent of a few Scott Walker albums. © Clara Bismuth/Qobuz
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Pop - Released March 31, 2015 | Dead Oceans

Guitarist Ryley Walker follows All Kinds of You, his 2014 debut full-length, by delving deeper into some of the abstract jazz and psych-inflected folk-rock that permeated several of its tracks. On Primrose Green -- his debut for Dead Oceans -- he doesn't worry about putting his own signature on his tunes; this record is all about playing music he loves with people he respects. Though these are original songs, their inspirational roots lie in late-'60s and early-'70s sources. He's found a host of willing Chicago collaborators from the worlds of jazz and improv to assist, including cellists Fred Lonberg-Holm and Whitney Johnson, vibraphonist Jason Adasiewicz, drummer Frank Rosaly, keyboardist Ben Boye, upright and electric bassist Anton Hatwich, and electric guitarist Brian Sulpizio. Less than a minute into the opening title track, one can hear the very spirit of Tim Buckley -- one of several Walker muses here -- coming through the ether (or smoke, such as it were, since it is titled for a particular strain of pot). Eastern modes and droning psych are rung out on a 12-string, piano, electric guitars, vibes, and upright bass (the latter recalling Danny Thompson, who played with Buckley on the London concert issued as Dream Letter). Walker's voice swoops and sails, floats and hovers through his words about getting high. "Summer Dress" moves on (a bit) to widen the circle and embrace John Martyn's early-'70s sound inside Buckley's elastic chamber jazz approach. Sulpizio's guitar and Adasiewicz's vibes send this one into a darkly grooving stratosphere. "Same Minds" is so silvery and mercurial, one can feel Martyn's ghost in the mix. The instrumental "Love Can Be Cruel" evokes Brian Auger's sense of space and motion with wafting electronic noise grounding the tune in the 21st century. Speaking of Auger, the twilit psych-jazz of "Sweet Satisfaction" recalls the keyboardist's Trinity band with singer Julie Driscoll (now Tippetts), though Buckley's sense of elongated glossolalia still holds sway over the singer's vocal. Walker's killer fingerstyle guitar artistry isn't left off this record; it's present to stellar effect on "Griffiths Bucks Blues," "On the Banks of the Old Kishwaukee," "The High Road" (a duet with Lonberg-Holm), and the closing "Hide in the Roses." The latter track is informed by Bert Jansch's and Davy Graham's readings of the British Isles folk tradition. It's these rootsier tunes that add glue to the sensual, stoned, free-spirited cuts to make this a cohesive album. With its ready absorption of, homage to, and engagement with the past, Walker's skills as a guitarist and arranger make Primrose Green as musically compelling as it is willfully indulgent. ~ Thom Jurek
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Pop - Released November 16, 2018 | Dead Oceans

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Pop - Released August 19, 2016 | Dead Oceans

When singer, songwriter, and guitarist Ryley Walker released 2014's All Kinds of You, his playing style openly referenced Jack Rose, the "American Primitive" Takoma sound, and British innovators such as Davy Graham and Bert Jansch. His musical structures were loose and full of improvisation. A year later, on Primrose Green, the American primitive notions slipped from the radar, but the Brit folk had been fully integrated, and his love of Tim Buckley, John Martyn, and Terry Callier were woven into more expansively textured songs. Golden Sings That Have Been Sung offers another change-up. These eight songs offer more proof of Walker's evolution as a writer, and his referential focus has shifted again. He's not showcasing his playing abilities as much here, but readily evokes the Chicago scene of the '90s that gave us Gastr del Sol, the Sea and Cake, and Tortoise. The set was produced by multi-instrumentalist/arranger Leroy Bach (Wilco, Liz Phair, Rob Mazurek). Most of the remaining cast (also Chicagoans) have worked with Walker before. Opener "The Halfwit in Me," with its deadpan title and lyrics, underscores the influence of Jim O'Rourke and Gastr del Sol. The vibe is breezy, quirky, lithe pop with tight charts offering interlocking grooves in shifting time signatures. Clarinet, electric piano, and lap steel guitar (all from Bach) wrap themselves around gentle percussion and fingerstyle acoustic guitar. "A Choir Apart" offers a shifting dynamic with its ominous tom-toms that bridge modal psychedelic chamber pop and more experimental rock terrain (à la Tortoise). "Sullen Mind" is a more full-bodied articulation of sounds Walker's explored before, and features stellar interplay between electric piano, droning acoustic guitar, and Brian Sulpizio's poignant electric lead lines. "The Roundabout" is a midtempo folk-rock tune built around a single -- and yes, circular -- guitar vamp. Walker's lyric juxtaposes pain disguised as self-deprecating humor (think Mark Eitzel) at a local watering hole: "Can I buy you a drink/Though my credit is quite shit...And you cry like you've never seen water/And come to think of it I think my dad wanted a daughter...." Closer "Age Old Tale" is the longest and loosest thing here, with jazz overtones and sweeping autoharp -- evoking Alice Coltrane's early Impulse! recordings -- and engages Anton Hatwich's rumbling bassline as strummed electric and acoustic guitars move at a cough syrup pace. It's a modal vamp that doesn't really go anywhere -- though there is a nice clarinet interlude near the end -- but it doesn't need to; its deep-nod vibe is enough. There are a couple of duds here, including the dirge "The Great and Undecided" (that pays self-indulgent homage to Mark Kozelek's journal-entry confessional songwriting). On one level, Golden Sings That Have Been Sung delivers the most advanced music Walker's released to date. That said, despite his growing confidence and excellent production and arrangements, the singing and lyric writing still need work. This is a snapshot of where he is at the moment. It's a solid effort even with its flaws. ~ Thom Jurek
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Pop - Released August 19, 2016 | Dead Oceans

When singer, songwriter, and guitarist Ryley Walker released 2014's All Kinds of You, his playing style openly referenced Jack Rose, the "American Primitive" Takoma sound, and British innovators such as Davy Graham and Bert Jansch. His musical structures were loose and full of improvisation. A year later, on Primrose Green, the American primitive notions slipped from the radar, but the Brit folk had been fully integrated, and his love of Tim Buckley, John Martyn, and Terry Callier were woven into more expansively textured songs. Golden Sings That Have Been Sung offers another change-up. These eight songs offer more proof of Walker's evolution as a writer, and his referential focus has shifted again. He's not showcasing his playing abilities as much here, but readily evokes the Chicago scene of the '90s that gave us Gastr del Sol, the Sea and Cake, and Tortoise. The set was produced by multi-instrumentalist/arranger Leroy Bach (Wilco, Liz Phair, Rob Mazurek). Most of the remaining cast (also Chicagoans) have worked with Walker before. Opener "The Halfwit in Me," with its deadpan title and lyrics, underscores the influence of Jim O'Rourke and Gastr del Sol. The vibe is breezy, quirky, lithe pop with tight charts offering interlocking grooves in shifting time signatures. Clarinet, electric piano, and lap steel guitar (all from Bach) wrap themselves around gentle percussion and fingerstyle acoustic guitar. "A Choir Apart" offers a shifting dynamic with its ominous tom-toms that bridge modal psychedelic chamber pop and more experimental rock terrain (à la Tortoise). "Sullen Mind" is a more full-bodied articulation of sounds Walker's explored before, and features stellar interplay between electric piano, droning acoustic guitar, and Brian Sulpizio's poignant electric lead lines. "The Roundabout" is a midtempo folk-rock tune built around a single -- and yes, circular -- guitar vamp. Walker's lyric juxtaposes pain disguised as self-deprecating humor (think Mark Eitzel) at a local watering hole: "Can I buy you a drink/Though my credit is quite shit...And you cry like you've never seen water/And come to think of it I think my dad wanted a daughter...." Closer "Age Old Tale" is the longest and loosest thing here, with jazz overtones and sweeping autoharp -- evoking Alice Coltrane's early Impulse! recordings -- and engages Anton Hatwich's rumbling bassline as strummed electric and acoustic guitars move at a cough syrup pace. It's a modal vamp that doesn't really go anywhere -- though there is a nice clarinet interlude near the end -- but it doesn't need to; its deep-nod vibe is enough. There are a couple of duds here, including the dirge "The Great and Undecided" (that pays self-indulgent homage to Mark Kozelek's journal-entry confessional songwriting). On one level, Golden Sings That Have Been Sung delivers the most advanced music Walker's released to date. That said, despite his growing confidence and excellent production and arrangements, the singing and lyric writing still need work. This is a snapshot of where he is at the moment. It's a solid effort even with its flaws. ~ Thom Jurek

Rock - Released April 15, 2014 | Tompkins Square

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After two limited-edition cassettes, a single, and 2013's fine West Wind EP, fingerstyle guitarist, singer, and songwriter Ryley Walker delivers All Kinds of You, his debut full-length for the discerning Tompkins Square. Produced and mixed by Cave's Cooper Crain, Walker fearlessly navigates musical traditions in bracing, seductive, and adventurous ways with the self-assuredness of an artist far older than his 24 years. His influences are on his sleeve: the British fingerstyle folk of guitarists Davy Graham and Bert Jansch, American primitive guitar soli à la Takoma Records, the delirious psychedelic folk of Tim Buckley, and the bluesy jazz-folk of Tim Hardin and more. But Walker's sound reaches deeper and wider; it cannot be reined in by them. Set opener "The West Wind" juxtaposes jazz drumming, modal blues, classical viola, and raga-esque drones in an intoxicating meld. "Blessings" pairs viola and guitar in a lilting display of early Celtic folk, Baroque classical music, and jazz with his blues moan on top. Walker's baritone may be limited in range, but it is clear and expressive; the grain in his voice inhabits his lyric with commitment, but not overstatement. "Great River Road" is a driving country blues that recalls Hardin, but its turnarounds are tight and knotty, and the Gypsy swing in the bridge moves it outside that frame. Instrumental "Twin Oaks, Pt. 1" is a riveting guitar breakdown with a throbbing bassline, soaring viola, and post-bop drums. "Clear the Sky" recalls the guitar style of early John Martyn, though the the elegant instrumental arrangements and open vocal recall Tim Buckley's Happy Sad era -- though Walker ultimately slips both restraints and delivers something more mercurial. The guitar soli in "Twin Oaks, Pt. 2" is a gorgeous meditation on minor-key patterns, while "Fonda," another instrumental, contrasts ragtime and Appalachian-style guitar with neo-classical piano in a haunted round. "On the Rise" is an uptempo modal blues that features Brian Sulpizio's neo-psych electric guitar duetting with Walker's fluid fingerstyle acoustic. Closer "Tanglewood Spaces" is a gorgeous round that reflects both Graham and Jansch, but draws from the rural American South in its melody. All Kinds of You may not contain new sounds -- they weren't new for his influences, either. But Walker's harmonic sensibility is vast. With his idiosyncratic compositional method and stunning -- yet emotionally resonant -- playing technique, he is able to dissect, distill, recombine, and, just like his predecessors, reshape the music that inspires him in his own image. ~ Thom Jurek
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Pop - Released April 6, 2018 | Dead Oceans

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Pop - Released May 10, 2018 | Dead Oceans

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Pop - Released October 23, 2018 | Dead Oceans

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Pop - Released September 25, 2018 | Dead Oceans

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Pop - Released March 1, 2018 | Dead Oceans

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Pop - Released July 8, 2016 | Dead Oceans

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Pop - Released June 1, 2016 | Dead Oceans

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Pop - Released February 25, 2015 | Dead Oceans

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