Ryley Walker The Lillywhite Sessions
Published Nov 13, 2018According to a theory first made popular on the internet by since-suspended Twitter user @Swank0cean, the number one song on your 14th birthday defines your life.
But there's something wrong with that postulation: what if you weren't listening to modern pop radio as a teenager? What if, like a lot of kids coming of age in the early 2000s, you received your music in the form of burnt CD-Rs from older siblings, or late night LimeWire deep dives?
When file sharing turned from a fringe hobby to music industry up-ender, it wasn't just the day's singles traded around online, but lesser-known material as well: album leaks, live recordings, songs from far-off locales.
Jam band fans immediately benefitted from the technology.
That's how American singer-songwriter Ryley Walker ended up with an unreleased Dave Matthews Band album when a friend gave him a copy with the CD burner they got for Christmas the previous year. He was only 12 at the time, but the moment obviously had a major impact on his life.
It's that confluence of events — coming of age during the time of file sharing; a teenage musical awakening; still being unable to separate "good" from "bad" music — that's ultimately at play in Walker's The Lillywhite Sessions: a track-by-track cover of the DMB's long-lost (and endlessly shareable) album of the same name that also acts as equal parts tribute and exploration into why we love the music we love.
Inspired by the Chicago-area artists he grew up idolizing (including the Sea and Cake and Tortoise's Jeff Parker), The Lillywhite Sessions isn't so much a straight covers album, but an amalgamation of the songs and styles that have defined the guitarist and self-described music nerd over the years.
"JTR" switches gears to free jazz halfway through, while "Diggin' a Ditch" moves beyond the Midwest and recalls the feedback-drenched tones of Dinosaur Jr. and Sonic Youth. Elsewhere, songs are left rather unscathed ("Grace is Gone" and "Bartender" are both wholly respectful reinterpretations of the source material, letting Matthews' compositions and lyrics truly shine).
Not just for Dave Matthews Band fans, Ryley Walker's The Lillywhite Sessions is a reminder that taste is subjective, timing is everything, and you don't always choose the ones you love. (Dead Oceans)