Ryley Walker

The Lillywhite Sessions

(DOC170 released: 11/16/18)

For the first several years of his career, Ryley Walker kept a key component of his musical core a deep secret. While cementing his reputation as one of his generation’s most exquisite acoustic guitarists and most exploratory singer-songwriters, he worried the truth about his past might give the right people the wrong impression, that they’d think he was an interloper in cloistered circles of cool. The secret? That when he was a kid growing up in the Rust Belt suburbs of Chicago, worlds away from the city’s cultural stronghold, the Dave Matthews Band taught him how to play and love music. Not anymore: On The Lillywhite Sessions, Walker and the similarly indebted trio of drummer Ryan Jewell and bassist Andrew Scott Young cover Matthews’ infamously abandoned 2001 art-rock masterpiece of the same name, a record where he and his band indulged a new adult pathos and a budding musical wanderlust. Matthews and company discarded those sessions after a summer tour, turning instead to Everyday, an italicized pop record that pushed them to the top of the charts and away from their nascent experimentalism. But for Walker and so many others, those dozen leaked songs have long represented endless possibilities for childhood heroes digging a bit deeper and finding new modes of expression for emotions they’d once skirted. Walker’s The Lillywhite Sessions are one adolescent fan’s fulfilment of that possibility, a partial musical map of the places that this trio’s early interest in Matthews has since taken them. With a delicate rhythmic latticework and vocals that ask you to lean in, “Busted Stuff” recalls Jim O’ Rourke’s golden Drag City days. Emerging from a wall of distortion, “Diggin’ a Ditch” becomes a power trio wallop à la Dinosaur Jr, shaking off existential malaise like twenty-something pals writing rock songs in the garage. “Captain” conjures the stately complication of The Sea and Cake, “Bartender” the ecstatically indulgent psychedelia of Akron/Family. Where “Monkey Man” pushes fully out, sculpting chaos into a collage of spoken-word madness and extended-technique abrasion, “Sweet Up and Down” pulls fully back in with an irrepressible groove and an incandescent saxophone-and-guitar duet. Walker’s “Grace is Gone,” the most faithful take here, is a testament to his unflagging love for the music that helped make him a musician. People will likely ask for whom this record exists: Current DMB obsessives? Former fans who checked out after The Lillywhite Sessions were canned? Those people who have always dismissed Dave Matthews Band as an avoidable cultural aberration? Sure, but these Lillywhite Sessions are also for anyone who didn’t enter this world with fully formed musical tastes and who has ever (against their better judgement) felt a twinge of shame for liking anything at all, for not having the perfect palette of our esteemed tastemakers. This end-to-end interpretation of youthful fascination is a collective reminder that we are all just kids from somewhere, reckoning with our upbringing the best we can. Walker has stepped through the door long ago opened by the Dave Matthews Band to find a world teeming with musical possibilities. On The Lillywhite Sessions, he has, in turn, created his own.

  • 1. Busted Stuff
  • 2. Grey Street
  • 3. Diggin' A Ditch
  • 4. Sweet Up And Down
  • 5. JTR
  • 6. Big Eyed Fish
  • 7. Grace Is Gone
  • 8. Captain
  • 9. Bartender
  • 10. Monkey Man
  • 11. Kit Kat Jam
  • 12. Raven

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