For those in the know Chicago’s Ryley Walker is an artist who creates pure music. Pure in the guise of the music speaks for itself, not as in pure meaning something else. For the past decade Walker has strewn his singer songwriter sounds across a myriad of genres and come out the other side shining. On his new album Course In Fable Walker takes all of those genres and runs them together, creating a quality that twists and turns. The end result is a mastery in artistry, and album of creative force that weaves together a lot across seven tracks.
The album is an exercise in touching music that goes far beyond what’s on the surface. The opening song “Striking Down Your Big Premiere” offers up this eloquent prog hearty sound that moves as well as it weaves. The big chords that open it up get met with guitar work that could serve as a masterclass in not getting pinned down as one type of artist. In fact the guitar work is so mesmerizing that when the melodic verse comes in you’re already mystified. The direction under producer John McEntire serves the songs well as this is Walker at his most diverse. On”Rang Dizzy” Walker moves past the prog induced opener by offering a finger picked tone full of wondrous notes. The tenderness and honesty of the song and its lyrics cannot be diminished here as it feels like an autobiographical recitation.
While “Axis Bent” may be the most accessible song here for the masses, it doesn’t mean that the arrangements and songwriting aren’t at the top of the game. The push and pull between singer songwriter and progressive touches meld together to craft a sound that’s all Walker. The clarity in the songwriting and the pure flow of the song make it difficult not to let wash over you. It’s soulful without being a soul song,providing a glimpse into the depth Walker holds at his fingertips. Songs like “Clad With Bunk” and “Pond Scum Ocean” are both so masterfully created and executed that they seem to only exist here and those sounds are nowhere else to be found. There’s plenty of depth throughout the album, though it was hard not to love the closer “Shiva With Dustpan.” The driving sound of the opening where piano and guitar dance together in multiple spaces allows for the craft here to flow forward in its own way. Walker hits on so many spaces here that rather than pigeon hole him to one, it’s best to say listening to the music within will set you free. That’s what the album is, freeing freedom of expression where more occurs than on pretty much every album you’ve heard prior.
Course In Fable can be purchased directly from Husky Pants Records in various formats. It’s also available wherever you download music or to stream on all streaming sites.
Image Credits: Photo by Emma Smith.