Guitarists and pals pull their individual aesthetics closer together on their second collaborative album | Concert Preview | Chicago Reader

Guitarists and pals pull their individual aesthetics closer together on their second collaborative album 

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click to enlarge Bill MacKay & Ryley Walker

Bill MacKay & Ryley Walker

Michael Vallera

Guitarists Bill MacKay and Ryley Walker have been playing together for years, and their lovely second collaborative album, SpiderBeetleBee (Drag City), beautifully bridges the gap between their backgrounds. MacKay, a Pittsburgh native, has musical roots in jazz, while Walker pursues a cosmic folk-rock sound indebted to experimental troubadours such as Tim Buckley, John Martyn, and Tim Hardin (even though he discovered left-field sounds through skateboard videos while growing up in Rockford). Most of the new album consists of tender original compositions where the two guitarists weave acoustic counterpoint more delicate than a spiderweb and float through airy, meditative cascades of fleet arpeggios and extended runs; their collaboration collides old British folk with rustic post-John Fahey American Primitive guitar. Though a handful of tracks feature plangent cello by Katinka Kleijn (a member of the CSO and ICE), who shades the chord changes and enriches the interplay, most of the album is just two guitars ringing out with relaxed, natural beauty. A few pieces opt for a more probing, improvisatory feel, such as the harmonics-drenched “Naturita” or the slightly jammy “I Heard Them Singing” (which adds bubbly hand percussion from Ryan Jewel), but the record’s touchstone is luxuriant melodic warmth—the sound of an easygoing friendship that’s produced a deep musical rapport.   v

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