Sounds Local: Chicago musician expands his audience to Greenfield

  • Ryley Walker, a finger-style guitarist, singer and songwriter from Chicago, will perform at The Root Cellar on Monday. Contributed photo/Evan Jenkins

  • Lexi Weege and the Wondertwins are among the performers at the Lilith of the Valley music series’ next installment, which will be held Saturday at Hawks & Reed Performing Arts Center. Contributed photo


For the Recorder
Published: 12/5/2018 11:19:56 AM

When Ryley Walker released his recording of the Dave Matthews Band’s bootleg album, “The Lillywhite Sessions,” the Chicago musician’s music reached an entirely different audience.

Now, Walker is expanding that audience to Greenfield with a show at The Root Cellar, 10 Fiske Ave., on Monday at 8 p.m.

Walker, an accomplished finger-style guitarist, singer and songwriter, got his start in the indie and experimental music scene. He has released five albums and three EPs to date, including “Deafman Glance,” a work that finds him moving beyond the ’60s inspired folk meets ’90s experimental rock sound of his earlier records for more structured songwriting that leans toward jazz and indie rock. “Deafman Glance” is also Walker’s most personal work so far, an album that combines darkness with beauty and is a downright weird, complex listen at times.

“Deafman Glance” was pulling in good reviews and Walker was doing some shows in support of the album when he threw his audience a curveball — that he would release a song-for-song recording of “The Lillywhite Sessions.”

Matthews had begun work on this album with famed producer Steve Lillywhite (hence the title) in 2001, but the project was scrapped when his band members complained the songs were too dark. The group forged on and released the album “Everyday,” but “The Lillywhite Sessions” was leaked online and became a fan favorite. Some of the songs would later crop up on band’s 2002 release “Busted Stuff,” but many fans preferred the never-released original versions.

Despite being a rising figure in the indie music world, Walker wasn’t afraid to confess his love for The Dave Matthews Band. When he listens to them as an adult, he said it brings him back to a time when he was a carefree 14-year-old living in Rockford, Ill. and taking delight in the band’s jams.

He calls his recording a loving tribute to Matthews and insists he made the record as a nod to the band’s fans. And while he does make these songs his own, Walker doesn’t stray as far from the source material as we might think he would.

Matthews fans have given the album, which was released in November, a strong thumbs up, Walker said.

“The response has mostly been very good,” Walker wrote in an email sent from England, where he was touring. “I’ve seen all sorts of love from the Dave-heads out there, which is great. I knew they would be the harshest critics.”

Releasing two albums in a year is rather uncommon, especially in our current times when the value of the album as an art form is being questioned.

“It was a lot of work,” Walker said. “We recorded them nearly back to back. I finished ‘Deafman Glance’ and then started the (Dave Matthews Band) record. I’m lucky that the timing worked out enough to make it happen. I’m pretty excited that they are both out.”

Walker should be excited, because both albums are receiving positive attention. “The Lillywhite Sessions” has been covered by all of the mainstream music press, including Billboard and Rolling Stone. While “Deafman Glance” is already starting to pop up on year-end best of 2018 lists, Walker is a bit taken aback by all the attention.

“I’m always surprised that anyone even cares,” he said.

Despite the attention “The Lillywhite Sessions” has received, Walker said he will not be playing any of this material when he takes the stage at The Root Cellar. I guessed this was because he wanted to keep the focus on the material from “Deafman Glance,” but Walker informed me that is not the case.

“I’m just sort of lazy,” he said. “I’d have to relearn everything from the Dave record. I like to see it as a one-off, recording-only project.”

So what should one expect from this live show?

“I think we are much better live then on the records,” Walker said. “It’s going to be really far out and should be amazing.”

Tickets are $12 in advance and can be purchased at or by calling 413-773-3290. Tickets are $14 day of show.

Lilith of the Valley music series returns

Last week, I told you about some all-female bands that are currently making music news. Well, to give you an update on those shows, She Said killed it at Hawks & Reed Performing Arts Center in Greenfield last weekend, totally packing the house. Meanwhile, tickets are still available for Saturday’s show with The Boxcar Lilies at the Iron Horse Music Hall in Northampton.

Performances by talented female-led bands continue on Saturday, when this season’s Lilith of the Valley show will be held at Hawks & Reed at 8 p.m. This installment of the series, which began earlier this year, is titled “Lilith of the Valley: Women on Fire,” and will feature Sister Jawbone, Lexi Weege and the Wondertwins, DishSoap and Lush Honey.

Sister Jawbone, led by Sandy Bailey, has roots deep in soul, gospel, blues and rock. Lexi Weege and the Wondertwins lend a roaring ’20s feel to jazz and blues sets, while DishSoap featuring Ashleigh Theroux is a reggae/funk/rhythm and blues group that plays originals and covers. The evening will also include the funky sounds of Lush Honey featuring vocalist Jennifer Myers.

Doors open at 7:30 p.m. Admission is $7 in advance at or by calling 413-774-0150. Tickets are $10 at the door.

Sheryl Hunter is a music writer who lives in Easthampton. Her work has appeared in various regional and national magazines. You can contact her at

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