by Johnny Foreigner
I saw Ryley Walker play a concert in Boston last week, and the 28-year old from Chicago delivered a terrific, if unsettling performance. Opening for Calexico at the The Sinclair, Walker’s set was full of loud electronics and improvised guitar thrashing – most of the playlist coming from his new album Deafman’s Glance. Accompanied by guitarist Billy MacKay and standup bass, the relatively short (40 minute) set was not what I was expecting. I am not Pete Seeger threatening to cut the cables, but I had hoped for a tune or two on acoustic guitar. Didn’t happen.
Though he’s been recording for several years now, I had discovered Walker only recently. My pal Wayne sent me a few tunes from Walker’s 2015 Primrose Lane, and I was blown away by the Bert Jansch style finger picking and vocals which recall both Tims Harden and Buckley. Ryley seems to have moved on to a grittier territory.
The twee confines of folk music no doubt can be limiting, even suffocating. Dylan experienced this of course, as did Joni Mitchell. Hell, even the Kingston Trio probably whispered “this song blows” every so often. And it’s not only folk music. I am sure there were once Van Morrison fans who came to hear Van play “Brown Eyed Girl,” and instead heard “Astral Weeks” – and left pissed off. Am I like those wankers?
No. Rock On Ryley! I’ll be listening.
Here’s a clip of “folkie” Ryley singing Bert Jansch’s “Go Your Way My Love”