All Kinds of You
Take a look at that cover for starters – you could believe this was some LightInTheAttic reissue, some long lost/forgotten record, a thrift-store find touched up and newly pressed on CD, liner notes to tell you that this is the real life story of another Dave Van Ronk-type guy. And listening to the music won’t immediately dispel any of that. But no, Ryley Walker is a 24 year old and All Kinds of You is his debut full-length album. He’s busked, made CD-Rs to sell at gigs and such – but this is his first proper release.
And it’s startlingly good.
His sprightly guitar sounds echo all of those obvious touchstones, most prominently it’s Tim Buckley and Bert Jansch and John Fahey to begin with. Keep listening and you’ll hear a bit of Nick Drake in the arrangements, early John Martyn too. And one of my first thoughts was that I didn’t really want to hear him sing – not because his voice is not good (it seems that he’s taken a huge vocal influence from Jansch, a bit of Tim Hardin and Buckley in there too) just simply because the guitar playing is exquisite. But on subsequent listens I’m really warming to the voice and the way it helps to shape these songs in that slightly outsider-folk way. Not just Tim Buckley but some of Van Morrison’s work comes to mind.
Still it’s hard to get past just how wonderful this guitar playing is – like a combination of some of the ideas from contemporaries William Tyler and Steve Gunn. And then you hear the use of cello (Clear The Sky) and it’s back to those thoughts around Martyn and Drake, Jansch and Fahey.
Walker’s songs brush up against the blues and flirt with folk as a starting point but these are songs that seek their own space, that move with fluidity, with grace and charm – he’s creating a style all his own. So much so that you hear this record and instantly consider the possibilities – this really does sound like a sixth, seventh or eighth record – not merely a second, third or fourth. And it really does sound like a worldly-wise 40 or 50 or 60 year old player, not just a 24 year old with an almost unearthly skill, such a magical touch.
Most charmingly Walker does offer both songs (with vocals) and instrumentals. He’s clearly aware that there’s a voice he has on the guitar – with the guitar, through the guitar – and that’s worth hearing as lead (and only) voice just as much as it is any sort of accompanying tool. And that he knows, already, he can tell a story with the guitar – as evidenced here across Twin Oaks Pt. 1 and Pt. 2, as heard in the Davey Graham-like lines of Fonda, a lovely cascade of James BLackshaw-esque piano dancing around the guitar. And in the closing Tanglewood Spaces we can hear something Jimmy Page might have done, had he walked from Led Zeppelin after that band’s third album. So many things to hear here – so many starting points. A really wonderful record. Almost perfect, certainly a work of some genius.