MUCH HAS been made of this album's apparent shift away from Walker's 1960s psych folk-rock influences towards a 1990s indie singer-songwriter dominated sound, but the music within does not contain any kind of either/or exclusion.
The dancing, swirling, jazz-folk of the magnificent opener 'The Halfwit In Me' reveals Walker's debt to Pentangle, John Martyn, Fairport Convention and Van Morrison remains strong. The dextrous guitar figures building to a psych freak out in 'Sullen Mind' are worthy of the British folk-rock he so loves; while the highlight, 'The Roundabout', boasts further nimble guitar and a melody of folk-pop exquisiteness.
It is more a case that Walker has allowed other influences to enter and broaden and diversify his sound, specifically Red House Painters and Jim O'Rourke, as can be heard on the ballads, 'Funny Thing She Said' and the languid, ruminative beauty of 'The Great and Undecided'.
Ryley should not be seen as simply a compendium of his influences. There is grandeur, beauty, and depth to his music, not to mention his on considerable skill on acoustic guitar, showing a songwriter with the ambition to be as good as those who inspire him.
The lyrics though have attracted some criticism, but it seems a hair splitting point. Their enigmatic, disjointed, yet confessional, sometime painfully so, nature, perfectly fit the album's vibe of late night, post-last drinks, honesty between friends.