Chicago-based guitarists Bill MacKay and Ryley Walker met in January 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, a live music venue/gallery/record label in Chicago’s Logan Square neighborhood. 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. Alex Inglizian of Experimental Sound Studios recorded the final two shows of the residency and Erik Hall (In Tall Buildings, Wild Belle) mixed the seven tracks that comprise Land of Plenty.
Land of Plenty is completely instrumental and falls somewhere between Ryley Walker’s acclaimed new 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 seconds that the fourth wall is dropped and the listener can hear the crowd’s raucous applause.
In the stereo picture, Bill's guitar can be heard on the left, while Ryley's guitar can be heard on the right. Their instruments converge in the center.
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
Photo by Marc Riordan
Layout by Drew Ryan
LPs & CDs from Whistler Records are currently out of print