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In November 2015, at the end of a ten month period which saw him play over 200 shows, Ryley Walker decided that he should probably head home. The preceding months had been extraordinary. In March, his second album ‘Primrose Green’, emerged to critical hosannas from the likes of NPR, Village Voice, Uncut and Mojo and in the process earning admiration of musicians who had chalked up no shortage of turntable miles in Walker’s life. Robert Plant declared himself a fan, as did double-bass legend Danny Thompson, with whom Ryley would later embark on a British tour. A sprawling tour of the USA around ‘Primrose Green’ presented a perfect chance to workshop ideas for what would eventually become this, his third studio album, ‘Golden Sings That Have Been Sung’.
‘The Roundabout’ represents a symbolic return to Chicago, while other songs are directly wedded to Ryley’s actual return there. Perhaps more than any other song on the record, the somnambulant sun-dappled intimacies of opening track ‘The Halfwit In Me’ most audibly bear the imprint of Ryley’s improvisational sessions with Wilco multi-instrumentalist, Chicagoan and producer Leroy Bach, while ‘Funny Thing She Said’ is an unflinching study of separation set to a shimmeringly supple ensemble performance.
Soft, slo-mo explosions of melody intermittently burst through the distant thunder of the verses on ‘A Choir Apart’. Intriguing, surreal images are meted out by ‘I Will Ask You Twice’, like a malfunctioning slide projector and, perhaps best of all, the stunning finale, ‘Age Old Tale’, which spiders out from an Alice Coltrane-inspired reverie into a sustained rapture that very few artists have managed to achieve.
Barry says: Having been one of our end of year favourites in 2015, Ryley Walker had a lot to live up to with this follow-up (obviously he had impressing us in mind). It turns out that this is just as monumental, if not more so. There is a sense of assurance here, a confidence gained through years of honing his craft. Perfectly sculpted Americana-tinged acoustic guitars are bolstered but never overpowered by frenetic violin slashes while molasses-slow drums perfectly compliment the unhurried and confident instrumentation. Walker and band have got a lot of bettering to do if they'll ever top this, but going on previous form, i'm sure they will. An absorbing and rewarding listen.
The Halfwit In Me
A Choir Apart
Funny Thing She Said
I Will Ask You Twice
The Great And Undecided
Age Old Tale