In his quarter-century, Ryley Walker seems to have made definitive decisions about what qualifies as a worthy influence: Van Morrison records made between 1968 and 1974, Jackson C. Frank, Pentangle, and the recently reissued early works of Mike Cooper are all among the examples. On Primrose Green, he embraces those inspirations without wrestling with them. He lugs their aged weight around as signs of good taste and his self-proclaimed place in a historical lineage. Though Walker comes from a mid-sized city in Illinois, he sings as if he bounced between the British Isles as a kid. Alongside his shoplifted accent, he apes Morrison’s trademark grunts and melismas.
Much like his contemporaries Ryley Walker isn’t trying to build an image. That’s how he belies his age. He’s the nondescript, shaggy-haired musician who looks like any other 20-something with an acoustic guitar in his bedroom. But when he’s got a microphone in front of his lips, he transforms into a man twice his age. Walker couldn’t care less about who’s who in a world of competing buzz and social media politics. He isn’t looking to have a billboard face that draws onlookers into his set. Walker wants to jam, and if you want to listen while he does so, that’s fine. He doesn’t care if you applaud. He doesn’t care if you even remember his name. For Walker, it’s about breathing life back into ’60s folk until it bursts with springtime charm, and Primrose Green is 2015’s ultimate encompassment of that sound.