Ryley Walker – Primrose Green [album review]

by Woody on March 30, 2015


The Grateful Dead are coming to Chicago to play their Farewell shows. I was a major Head back in the day. The Dead shaped my musical tastes and persona like no other musical act over the course of 70 some-odd shows like no other band before and no other band since. But truth be told, I had little to no interest in catching the shows at Soldier Field as I am not much for nostalgia shows.

Its fun to revisit the past but more fun to live in the now. There are so many acts doing incredible things now; many influence by the music of my youth. Ryley Walker is one such example. I’ve seen countless bands influence by The Dead over the years but I’ve yet to come across one that celebrated the contributions of one Ronald McKernan, aka Pigpen, like Ryley Walker. Listening to Primrose Green is like listening to a hissy bootleg from The Fillmore circa the late 60s.

Many have compared him to Tim Buckley. That is apt as like Buckley, there is a pervasive jazz influence throughout the album. But the vocals, those are pure Pigpen. In addition to the great vocals, Ryley is not that shabby on the guitar. He did a solo acoustic session at KEXP that will stop you in your tracks. His playing reminds me of another act I’ve become enamored with lately, Steve Gunn.

The second track, Summer Dress, is and will be one of my favorite tunes of 2015. It is just full of passion and a tune to get lost in. It sounds like something off a Dead bootleg from the Fillmore West. The video below is just Ryley & his guitar. That alone is jaw-dropping, but on the album it is fleshed out with elements of blues, folk and jazz.

As with any artist that takes his inspiration from yesteryear, different people are going to hear different things. I’m sure you could compile a couple dozen influences that Walker drew from. I caught a set of his down at SXSW and thought it was fantastic. His record release party is tonight in Chicago at The Chopin Theater and appears to be sold out.

Follow me on Twitter at @WoodyHearYa

Ryley Walker is here

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

dj April 8, 2015 at 10:17 am

Woody – Congratulations. You are the first reviewer that I’ve come across to point out what hit me almost immediately upon hearing this album: the (wonderful) sound of the Grateful Dead. But oddly/interestingly, we apparently didn’t hear the same Dead. You heard Pigpen, but I heard the jazzy improvisation that was the highlight of many of their shows in the immediate post-PigPen years. But hey, you recognized the Dead in Walker’s music at that’s what counts. Whether out of ignorance or choice, no other reviewer that I’ve read mentioned this.

dj April 8, 2015 at 10:19 am

Make that “AND that’s what counts” (see above). My bad.

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