Ryley Walker Primrose Green on LP + Download
Ryley Walker is the reincarnation of the True American Guitar Player. That’s as much a testament to his roving, rambling ways as to the fact that his Guild D-35 guitar has endured a few stints in the pawnshop. Primrose Green begins near where All Kinds of You, his last record, leaves off but quickly pushes far afield. The title sounds pastoral and quaint, but the titular green has dark hallucinogenic qualities, as does much of the LP. The band is a mixture of new and old Chicago talent, blending both jaded veterans of the postrock and jazz mini-circuits together with a few eager, open-eared youths.
Ryley didn’t have much time to write this LP, so some of it he didn’t. Bits of lyrics were improvised into full-blown songs in the studio, more often than not on the fly. The title track “Primrose Green” was nearly discarded after its incarnation on a bleak St. Patrick’s Day spent in Oxford, Mississippi. “Primrose Green” is a colloquial term for a cocktail of whiskey and morning glory seeds that has a murky, dreamy, absinthian quality when imbibed, and a spirit-crushing aftereffect the morning after.
“Summer Dress” is liftoff: seizing the mantle from Tim Buckley’s Starsailor and perfecting its frantic jazz-induced fits. “Griffiths Bucks Blues” is named for a local artist and eccentric botanist in Ryley’s hometown of Rockford, Illinois who has likely had few other songs named for him. “Love Can Be Cruel” spends almost two minutes “out” before becoming the song it was originally intended to be. Drummer Frank Rosaly pushes the song further and further until it borders on a cathartic meltdown to close out Side A.
Side B sets off with a shot of Americana, “On The Banks Of The Old Kishwaukee.” It’s an ode to the immersion baptisms Ryley’s witnessed while walking along the banks. Unlike the idyllic memories of christenings under the weeping willows, the river was brown and polluted, the participants dirty and tired and disinterested. “Sweet Satisfaction” presents some of Ryley’s most intricate and ecstatic fingerpicking. It’s hard not to recall John Martyn’s early 1970s work, though Ben Boye’s piano work is particularly revelatory here.
“All Kinds Of You” is the oldest song included here. The title should seem familiar...it was written after his first LP, All Kinds of You, was finished, but the name seemed to fit that collection of songs better than anything else. No one knows what the future holds for young Ryley Walker. Hardship and setbacks and uncertainty only seem to spur him on creatively. If the world catches on, the Ryley that follows up this album may be a different sort of person, one who knows the taste of better liquor and comfortable bedding and might not be nearly as driven. Here, with Primrose Green, we risk limiting his access to personal disaster by flirting with success.
Ryley Walker Primrose Green Track Listing:
1. Primrose Green
2. Summer Dress
3. Same Minds
4. Griffiths Bucks Blues
5. Love Can Be Cruel
6. On the Banks Of The Old Kishwaukee
7. Sweet Satisfaction
8. The High Road
9. All Kinds Of You
10. Hide In The Roses