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His fifth album, Deafman Glance, arrived in May – and it’s the virtuoso Chicago-based guitarist’s best yet. Ryley Walker tells Laura Barton about making the album, life on the road, and how buying records brought him out into the world…


Somewhere on the road to Atlanta, Ryley Walker is newly awake in the back of his van. “I had collard greens and fried chicken and biscuits for lunch,” he says blurrily. “And then I kept dozing off.” Walker is in the midst of touring his fifth album, Deafman Glance, when we speak. It’s a tour that will take him through the southern United States and on through a glut of European festivals and club dates. “Man, I love touring,” he says. “It’s always a good opportunity to get out and see the world and get to play your tunes at the same time.”

Back home in Chicago, Walker, 28, has recently moved house, taking up residence in a whole new neighbourhood on the city’s South Side after many years near Humboldt Park. For a music fan to up sticks after so many years naturally brings particular challenges: “You know, getting a couch up some stairs isn’t so bad, but when you have thousands of records… that shit is exhausting to pack and unpack,” he says. “But it’s kind of nice to file through everything. I found a bunch of records I thought I’d lost. It’s like some sort of treasure hunt.”

Since 2015’s Primrose Green, Walker’s songwriting has been a firm favourite among musical treasure hunters, his music carrying shades of artists such as Van Morrison, Mike Cooper and John Martyn, without ever falling into mystical-folk pastiche. It’s an effortless revivalism that led him on to 2016’s Golden Sings That Have Been Sung, but he’s variously embraced and spurned this reputation, wearying sometimes of its preciousness.

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