Saturday, July 26, 2014

Song of the day

"Twin Oaks Pt 1", by Ryley Walker.

It seems like every few years there is a folk-rock revival. Either that or folk-rock never really goes away. It certainly adapts and mutates (the story, up until more or less the present day, is well told in Rob Young's massive book "Electric Eden"), as it did a brief while back through the insertion of electronic music, as heard to best effect in the work of Tunng. ("Bullets" is a fine, but not the only fine, example.) Young includes the output of the Ghost Box label in the tradition, but the link there, I reckon, is slightly tenuous -- the philosophy might be similar, though I can't quite hear it explicitly in the music.

What you also get is younger musicians coming through who are situating themselves squarely in the tradition, yet don't sound exactly like what has come before: the reason for that being that every generation leaves its distinctive marks and, in doing so, itself becomes part of the tradition. And so, what we find in the new recording by Ryley Walker, "All Kinds of You", are distinct echoes of a singularly modern band, Espers, who added their own (indefinable -- by me, anyway) incremental touches to what could be called the Pentangle school of British folk-rock. (And whose most recent album, "III", which is a few years old now, I still can't draw myself away from, assuming I would even want to.) (By the way, I don't even know for sure if "folk-rock" is the term I should be using here: I can hear purists' teeth being set on edge as I type.)

Whatever it is, though, "All Kinds of You" is a totally successful record on its own terms. Certainly it contains traces, sometimes strong traces, of other music. Espers, yes, for sure, you only have to listen to the first song, "West Wind"; Pentangle and Fairport Convention are there, too, and there is a clear connection to Bert Jansch in Walker's affectless/undemonstrative vocal style. There are also hints of Nick Drake (not least in the album cover photo) and of what I would term, in my uneducated manner, Appalachian music (which, again, I apologise if I am getting this wrong). Dude can play guitar, too.

The surprising reference, for me, at least, comes at the start of "Twin Oaks Pt 1", which sounds so much like the work of Ed Kuepper that you half expect old Uncle Ed to start singing "My horses they ain't hungry, they won't eat your hay" at any moment*. It is an instrumental, though, so he doesn't. He was probably busy elsewhere, anyway: reworking "Eternally Yours" for the seven thousandth time or some such.

You can stream the entire album below (go right ahead); "Twin Oaks Pt 1" is the third track.

*Coincidence upon coincidence: Kuepper's "Pretty Mary" is actually Ed's rewrite / homage to an American folk standard, "The Wagoner's Lad", which, as "The Waggoner's Lad", was also recorded by Bert Jansch and John Renbourn. There you go. (And it's not just me saying this: go here.)