Ryley Walker – Deafman Glance

Album Review | Dead Oceans | Review by Steve Henderson | Stars: 4/5

Followers of Ryley Walker on Twitter get drawn into a world of life on the road where tales of fast food and travel blur into opinions on music. It’s hard to tell whether it’s fact or fiction at times but what’s clear is that he’s happily taking a singular path through life. So, it is with each new Ryley Walker record. Deafman Glance is now in our midst and takes a stride or two into a new direction as you’d expect. Fans who were drawn to earlier releases on the basis of his ability to take folk music and layer jazz into it like a modern day Tim Buckley or John Martyn will find that the palette used to flavour his music has been added to in various ways. You’ll still find some nimble acoustic guitar work on the instrumental “Rocks on Rainbow” but be prepared for excursions into other territory. For example, the album opens with the languid blues of “In Castle Dome” with its dreamy flow driven by synth and flute as much as the guitar work that Walker has at the heart of his music. Elsewhere, tracks like Accommodations are a throwback to the avant-garde approaches of the likes of Frank Zappa who was also not frightened to experiment with his music. The increased infusion of jazz into the music is apparent on tracks like “22 Days”, “Spoil with the Rest” and “Telluride Speed”. However, it would be foolish to categorise this as a jazz record as the influences come from across the rock spectrum as much as anywhere else. Indeed, it’s the inability to pigeonhole this record in a convenient way that makes for much of its appeal. The rich and varied approach on this album is helped by the fact that he’s now surrounded by a set of good musicians that has emerged from the pool of contacts in his almost constantly gigging world. Duo partner, Bill MacKay, pops up with his electric guitar on various tracks and LeRoy Bach provides a steadying hand not only with keyboards but on the production controls of this record. For sure, the musical evidence confirms this approach to the recording has helped foster a creative melting pot on this record. Who knows where he’ll head off to next? I can see long extended classical pieces, even concept records or film soundtracks. There’s almost no end to the possibilities. Meanwhile, enjoy the ride on the imaginative Deafman Glance.