After two limited-edition cassettes, a single, and 2013's fine West Wind EP, fingerstyle guitarist, singer, and songwriter Ryley Walker delivers All Kinds of You, his debut full-length for the discerning Tompkins Square. Produced and mixed by Cave's Cooper Crain, Walker fearlessly navigates musical traditions in bracing, seductive, and adventurous ways with the self-assuredness of an artist far older than his 24 years. His influences are on his sleeve: the British fingerstyle folk of guitarists Davy Graham and Bert Jansch, American primitive guitar soli à la Takoma Records, the delirious psychedelic folk of Tim Buckley, and the bluesy jazz-folk of Tim Hardin and more. But Walker's sound reaches deeper and wider; it cannot be reined in by them. Set opener "The West Wind" juxtaposes jazz drumming, modal blues, classical viola, and raga-esque drones in an intoxicating meld. "Blessings" pairs viola and guitar in a lilting display of early Celtic folk, Baroque classical music, and jazz with his blues moan on top. Walker's baritone may be limited in range, but it is clear and expressive; the grain in his voice inhabits his lyric with commitment, but not overstatement. "Great River Road" is a driving country blues that recalls Hardin, but its turnarounds are tight and knotty, and the Gypsy swing in the bridge moves it outside that frame. Instrumental "Twin Oaks, Pt. 1" is a riveting guitar breakdown with a throbbing bassline, soaring viola, and post-bop drums. "Clear the Sky" recalls the guitar style of early John Martyn, though the the elegant instrumental arrangements and open vocal recall Tim Buckley's Happy Sad era -- though Walker ultimately slips both restraints and delivers something more mercurial. The guitar soli in "Twin Oaks, Pt. 2" is a gorgeous meditation on minor-key patterns, while "Fonda," another instrumental, contrasts ragtime and Appalachian-style guitar with neo-classical piano in a haunted round. "On the Rise" is an uptempo modal blues that features Brian Sulpizio's neo-psych electric guitar duetting with Walker's fluid fingerstyle acoustic. Closer "Tanglewood Spaces" is a gorgeous round that reflects both Graham and Jansch, but draws from the rural American South in its melody. All Kinds of You may not contain new sounds -- they weren't new for his influences, either. But Walker's harmonic sensibility is vast. With his idiosyncratic compositional method and stunning -- yet emotionally resonant -- playing technique, he is able to dissect, distill, recombine, and, just like his predecessors, reshape the music that inspires him in his own image.
All Kinds of You Review
by Thom Jurek