Ryley Walker – The Lillywhite Sessions – Album Review by Killian Laher
Ryley Walker follows up his prog-rock messy Deafman Glance album just six months later with a cover of an unreleased Dave Matthews Band album. Sounds confusing. He has continued down a complex, proggy avenue with this. Busted Stuff is an intricate and insular track with an almost jazzy feel. On the other hand Diggin’ A Ditch, is a straight 4/4 rocker, akin to a heavier Snow Patrol and unrecognisable as a Ryley Walker song.
Many of the songs here are lengthy, with a draggy, sluggish feel, such as Grey Street clocking in at 8 minutes while the loose, almost free form Bartender stretches to a whopping 10 and a half minutes, taken over by an unruly saxophone. Even the shorter ones like Captain, Kit Kat Jam and Raven are quite ponderous, seeming longer than they actually are. They contain snatches of appealing instrumentation but attempt to be over clever with odd time signatures and musical left turns. Tim Buckley in his Starsailor period is an obvious comparison.
Walker seems to have indulged his brassy side this time out, saxophone to be precise. Grey Street opens with a shrill, maddening burst of saxophone but evolves into a downcast, brooding track. Sweet Up And Down is one of the more… er… challenging tracks here, a blues-rock plodder plagued by the sax, which ultimately becomes what can only be described as jazz w**k. It’s followed by JTR, probably the nadir of the album. It’s 4 minurtes of a sax-driven funk workout before it descends into a lengthy drone with random blasts of saxophone, xylophone and little else. The track runs to 11 minutes – needless, just needless.
Fans of his earlier, folky work are catered for with sweet-sounding finger-picking on Grace Is Gone, but it’s a rare moment on this album. On the other hand, Monkey Man consists of discordant plucking of instruments, random voices and little else. It has little to recommend itself. Ryley Walker certainly has talent, and credit to him for following his muse, but this album really is a dreadful, bloated mess. God knows where this dark, grubby road is taking him. It will confound fans of his older work, that’s for sure.
Track List –
1. Busted Stuff
2. Grey Street
3. Diggin’ A Ditch
4. Sweet Up And Down
6. Big Eyed Fish
7. Grace Is Gone
10. Monkey Man
11. Kit Kat Jam