I am massively behind the curve on this one, but I guess it’s better to be late to the party than never arrive at all. Thankfully, one of the best things to come out of the current lockdown situation is the Twitter listening parties hosted by Tim Burgess (of Charlatans fame) and one of the featured records on that has been Bill Ryder-Jones’ West Kirby County Primary. So now I’m fully on board.
(If you haven’t checked out the listening parties by the way, you can do so here: https://timstwitterlisteningparty.com/. I can’t recommend them highly enough. The format is really simple – everyone plays a record at the same time and then shares thoughts/reactions/memories on a Twitter thread. Often the featured artist chips in. It’s a brilliant way of discovering or rediscovering music).
Anyway, Ryder-Jones. He was originally the lead guitarist in psychedelic indie-rock band The Coral, but left around 2010 because of some mental health issues he was experiencing. I knew about this at the time, and I also knew he had released what was described as a ‘classical’ solo album as part of his ongoing recovery. And stupidly, I decided that wasn’t really my kind of thing so I never checked it out properly. I was so very wrong to do so, because it’s an incredible record. It isn’t classical music at all. It’s a folk rock album, to my ears, just one with the lushest orchestration you’re likely to ever hear. And yes, there are a lot of instrumentals on there, but there are some more conventional tracks too and overall it’s one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever listened to.
I’ve digressed again slightly. Because ‘Wild Roses’ is from Ryder-Jones’ third album, not his first. And musically, on his subsequent releases, he’s edged more firmly into indie folk-rock territory, channeling Nick Drake and Elliott Smith but with the lo-fi slant of Smog and often the edgy guitar work of Dinosaur Jnr. This is from 2016 so has been out for a good few years now, but to me it’s about as close to perfection as a song can get. I quite literally can’t stop playing it; humming it; singing it.
Without banging on too much, as I usually try and keep the track of the day posts short and to the point, I have to direct you to this interview with Ryder-Jones published by Q magazine a few years back. Because it’s brilliant. And because it chimes with my final point that I think this guy is an introspective genius. Like only the very best artists I’ve ever heard, he doesn’t so much write songs and put them together in a list, he creates on his records whole worlds that draw you in and take you somewhere else entirely. Each time I listen to one of his five albums I either immediately put it back on from the start or put on another of them right away so I can stay in his world a bit longer. It’s just incredible stuff and quite obviously my latest musical obsession (I do have them from time to time).
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