Chicago experimentalist Ryley Walker reimagines Dave Matthews Band’s lost 2001 album The Lillywhite Sessions in full for a new era. Walker delivers a powerful, heartfelt meditation on the twists and turns of an individual’s musical journey across a life of enthusiastic and curious listening. Through his thoughtful performance and rearrangement, with frequent collaborators Andrew Scott Young andRyan Jewell, he submits that perhaps DMB is justly due the reassessment it’s slowly been granted in the pop zeitgeist as of late. He transforms DMB’s loping and goofy Lillywhite Sessions lead-off track “Busted Stuff” into a buoyant and breathy jazz-tinged post-rock that recalls Chicago heroes The Sea & Cake.
For the first several years of his career, 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.
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.