Ryley Walker can kick it pretty much anywhere. Perched on a log in the woods, one leg crossed over the other, fingerpicking a solo ballad under the low hanging branches: alright. Cruising down the interstate to the next gig in a four-door sedan with Moth Cock, windows down, switching between fading FM stations to find a signal: for sure. Leave your front door unlocked for a few hours and the 24-year-old guitarist/songwriter could very well be lamping on your couch when you come back in from the yard work, boots up on the coffee table, munching on the trail mix with impunity. “But I ain’t mad atcha,” you tell him. He sets down the bag to give you two thumbs up and a smile. You think of all the stage areas, all the green rooms, all the DIY basement spots through which that smile has flashed and you wonder, as he moves on to the banana bread, “Doesn’t this guy have some new tunes coming out soon?”
Yeah. Though Walker’s debut full-length LP on the inimitable Tompkins Square doesn’t drop until April 2014, the label squeezes out a three-song EP on November 29 to tide us over. If much of his previous work, solo and in tandem with fellow six-string prodigy Daniel Bachman, fell on the minimal American Primitive side of the acoustic spectrum, “The West Wind” arrives as five minutes of prog- and jazz-inflected folk à la Pentangle or first-two-albums-era Nick Drake. The ornate arrangement lays Walker’s busy, open-tuned progression against a string section, piano, and brisk drums — all of which propel the song through crescendos and harmonic-laced interludes on the way to a surging coda. Walker’s voice sets the atmosphere early on, dropping couplets throughout verses in a weary baritone with plenty of room for the strings to breathe and swell in their complementary bittersweetness. Sounds like someone’s been both *hitting the studio* and *putting in serious work* and I, for one, am stoked to check out the rest of this pup come springtime.
Walker is on tour now in Europe with Daniel Bachman. Scope out the dates here, and keep an ear out for more of his solo material before the year’s end.