Chicago-based guitarists Bill MacKay and Ryley Walker met in 2014 at a friend’s birthday party where they discovered a mutual admiration for Albert King, Laura Nyro, Nick Drake, Bert Jansch, Ali Akbar Khan and Jimi Hendrix. They soon began meeting at Bill’s southwest Chicago home to write and improvise together on their lived-in dreadnought 6-string guitars, with Ryley’s 12-string and Bill’s requinto making frequent appearances as the year wore on. The duo quickly developed their own musical vocabulary and the resulting sounds drew on traditional folk music from Appalachia to Northern India, as well as jazz and blues. Over the course of the year, an impressive repertoire of new songs and ideas coalesced.
In January 2015, Bill and Ryley took up a month-long, Friday night residency at The Whistler. The overall spirit of the residency was that of a creative workshop producing music that ran in directions as wide as the duo’s interests. Each week, songs took on new shapes, while others were written and added to the always-evolving set list.
Land of Plenty is completely instrumental and falls somewhere between Ryley Walker’s album, Primrose Green (Dead Oceans), and Bill MacKay’s highly melodic work in Darts & Arrows. Songs run the gamut from fingerstyle ballads to psychedelic waltzes and raga-inspired blues. Guitar tone was a key element when selecting the tracks that made the cut. Like their live set up, Bill’s guitar can be heard on the left of the stereo picture and Ryley’s on the right. Although recorded in a bar in front of a capacity crowd, it’s not until the album’s final moments that the fourth wall is dropped and the listener hears the crowd’s raucous applause.
All songs by Bill MacKay & Ryley Walker
Bill MacKay: 6 string guitar, requinto, glass slide
Ryley Walker: 6 & 12 string guitars
Recorded live by Alex Inglizian of Experimental Sound Studio during a January 2015 residency at The Whistler. The songs on this album were taken from the last two shows of the residency, on January 25th and 30th.
Mixed by Erik Hall
Mastered by Greg Obis at Chicago Mastering Service
Artwork by Bill MacKay
LPs & CDs from Whistler Records are currently out of print