Saturday, September 03, 2016

Song of the day

"The Halfwit In Me", by Ryley Walker.

So, I purposely avoided listening to the pre-release singles off the new Ryley Walker album, "Golden Sings That Have Been Sung". I had been trying to hold down my expectations for the album, and my plan was not to allow one or two songs to become over-familiar to the detriment of the rest of the record when it came out.

Turns out that some reviewers may have fallen into this trap: I have lost count of the number of times I have read that the rest of the album sits in the shadow of "The Halfwit In Me" thus marking the album down to, y'know, six and a half stars or whatever. I am here to tell you that, listening to the album straight through several times from scratch, it might not even be the strongest track on the record.

(I am also here to tell you that the album is another huge step along the road for an extraordinary talent who is still growing into his own skin. We seem to get Walker's own singing voice this time around, making some of the reference points a bit less transparent than on "Primrose Green". What comes to the fore this time around is the band arrangements, which are as perfect as they are frequently surprising. There is a looseness, a fluidity at work here that can only come from someone who is both deeply talented and immensely confident of their ability. (The inclusion of double bass is a master stroke.) And one other thing: the album also comes in a "Deep Cuts" edition, including a 41-minute version of another of the record's finest songs, "Sullen Mind". Do you really need to go that extra distance? Yes, actually, you do.)

So why am I picking what, according to no lesser authority than myself (and, let's face it, there is no lesser authority than myself), "might not even be the strongest track on the record"? Because I have spent the past couple of months up to my eyeballs in Grateful Dead, and this is one of the Grateful Deadest songs I can think of that's not by the Dead. Observe the considered meanderings of the last couple of minutes. But don't just observe them. Get stuck right in.