Ryley Walker dropped The West Wind EP at the tail end of 2013 to tide over the heads across the world pining for his shred. I bid those heads to rise and look over yonder, for lo! It is Walker: gig bag over shoulder, rollie in mouth, once again darkening the horizon. If “The West Wind” hinted that the Chicago-based guitarist/songwriter has put in his 10000 hours with the catalogs of Richard Thompson and Bert Jansch, his forthcoming LP All Kinds of You expands into a diverse survey of 20th century folk styles, culling vibes and performance tactics from the progressive strains of the UK as much as the ramshackle roots music and American Primitive traditions of the US. If you’d like to call this “revivalist” music: alright. Do your thing. The vitality of Walker’s songwriting and the level of fingers-on-fretboard prowess necessary to channel his chosen forebears speak for themselves, elevating his project from an homage into a nuanced vision of past-meets-present composition.
“Clear the Sky,” premiering below, leads off with a passage of loose, raga-inspired solo guitar characteristic of the Fahey/Rose lineage (double RIP). His ensemble drops in, establishing a loping rhythm gilded with snare runs and lush string phrases, and Walker sings of nature, the mountains, probably time in general, maybe an unnamed flame: “So lay your body on down.” His delivery and the space between his lines generate a mood between work-worn fatigue and optimism, like a shift in the lumber yard drawing to a close with the sunset. His playing continues to astound without crossing into showboat territory. Each of his strident hammer-on runs and chiming arpeggio phrases serves the song’s harmonic structure, resulting in a chord progression that feels more like a tight lead line accounting for every sixteenth note. The tension between this precision and the rubato passages that pleasantly disrupt it stretches “Clear the Sky” beyond the [man + guitar] [singer/songwriter] [folk] paradigms into a modern hybrid of ideas, with Walker’s sense of song structure and arrangement as the lynchpin.
All Kinds of You arrives on April 15 via the Tompkins Square. Check out their site for his upcoming tour dates with both Wrekmeister Harmonies and Cloud Nothings, and keep your eyes out for ordering info.