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Review: Ryley Walker - Primrose

Ryley Walker - Primrose


I put this album on my record player for the first time after listening to John and Beverly Martin’s Stormbringer. Being a touch cruel, that’s a bit like stopping off at your local chippy after spending the weekend dining at Rick Stein’s place. Perhaps I wasn’t in the right mindset to appreciate Walker’s not inconsiderable talents upon first listen; all I could hear were the echoes of the 60’s and 70’s British folk greats upon whose shoulders this record quite clearly rests…

‘Hide in the Roses’ by the recently deceased John Renbourn, ‘The High Road’ by the less recently deceased Bert Jansch, ‘All Kinds of you’ by the even less recently deceased John Martyn.

In fact, half this album could have appeared on Martyn’s classic Solid Air. Which I realise is high praise, but the problem is there’s a lack of an authentic voice that Walker can call his own. His singing feels like an imitation of Jansch one moment, Martyn the next.

Unlike say, Kurt Vile, who shares many of these influences but is different enough partly in thanks to growing up in America and being a generation removed from the British folk revival. It feels as if Walker is yet to find his own voice, either figuratively or literally.

Christ I'm bored. Why did I come here?

The jazziest moments come across as Walker doing his best Astral Weeks era Van Morrison. Musically it’s impressive stuff, not just from Walker (who I really should emphasise is a stunningly good acoustic guitar player), but bassist Anton Hatwich and drummer Frank Rosaly really shine during tracks like ‘Summer Dress’ and ‘Love Can be Cruel’.

The musicianship is really quite something but perhaps that’s also part of the problem. When you can imitate the greats with such precision, perhaps you are less inclined to furrow your own path? I like this album, I’ve listened to it several times and I’m sure I’ll listen to it a lot more in future but I can clearly hear the flaws every time.

This would be the album of the year. If the year was 1973.

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