We were big fans of Ryley Walker’s debut LP on Tompkins Square last year, but his latest, Primrose Green, shows that the Chicago singer-songwriter was just getting started. A whole review could be devoted to calling out Walker’s vintage influences — Pentangle, Van Morrison, John Martyn, Tim Buckley, just to name a few. They’re obvious and undeniable, even down to that His Band and the Street Choir-aping cover art. But Primrose Green manages to take those tried-and-true vibes and make them feel fresh and vibrant. He may be looking back, but the music here has plenty of forward-moving momentum.
A big contributing factor is the dynamic interplay between Walker and his backing band, including guitarist Brian Sulpizio, drummer Frank Rosaly and pianist Ben Boye, all talents drawn from Chicago’s fertile experimental/jazz scene. The performances are crisp and lively; Walker lets the musicians stretch out, whether easing their way into the lovely melody of “On The Banks of the Old Kishwaukee” or grinding out the hypnotic, noisy finale of “Sweet Satisfaction.” It may be Ryley’s name alone on the cover, but Primrose Green sounds like a record by an inspired, powerful band. Keep it coming. words / t wilcox