Ryley Walker – The Crescent, York, 10/08/2016 1

Ryley Walker – The Crescent, York, 10/08/2016

“Let’s do this shit”. And with these words Ryley Walker sets off on a mesmeric, magical musical journey. For 90 minutes and armed only with two guitars – one six, the other 12-stringed – he takes us on a scintillating trip across the wide open spaces of his American homeland and to the outer limits of his imagination.

In his trainers, ripped jeans, striped T-shirt and baseball cap – so he can be just like the veteran, virtuoso English singer-songwriter and guitarist, Michael Chapman, he later tells us – and his long straggly hair, Walker looks like some typical teenager. Yet he is 27 years of age. And he appears to have already lived a lifetime; in fact, his music speaks of him coming from another era altogether.

Ryley Walker

Most of Ryley Walker’s musical influences and inspirations date from the late ‘60s and early ‘70s. There is Bert Jansch and John Renbourn, the two innovative guitarists from ground-breaking English folk band Pentangle. It is little surprise to learn that when Walker was last on these shores he was accompanied by legendary upright bass player and another Pentangle founding member, Danny Thompson. Then there is John Martyn – forging yet another link with Danny Thompson – and Tim Buckley, two other individuals who blurred those more conventional lines that lay between rock, folk, blues and jazz. And that is before you even get on to speaking about the impact that both Van Morrison and the pioneering American guitarist John Fahey have had upon Ryley Walker’s music.

But the closest reference point this evening is surely David Crosby’s If Only I Could Remember My Name, as Ryley Walker completely seduces us with the same hazy, elliptical, cosmic qualities that permeate this 1971 classic. This is never more true than on the material from Golden Sings That Have Been Sung – his third long-player which is due to be released next week – where Walker gently bends the guitar to his will, twisting and turning the strings and associated time signatures so they fit the more natural contours of the songs. Such is the hypnotic, gently rolling groove of the opener “Funny Thing She Said”, you just want it to go on and on forever.

By the time that we get to the intricate, sublime finger-picking of ‘The Halfwit In Me’ – another song from the new record and one which he describes with remarkable self-deprecation as “showing how dumb me and my friends can be” – Walker has us completely in his thrall. Further vignettes of Walker’s life are held up to the light on ‘The Roundabout’ as he weaves a delicate melody around his words. And the ensuing ‘Sullen Mind’ – which was originally intended to form one complete side of the new record – still remains an epochal piece even when tuning in at under seven minutes. As Walker beats a frantic rhythm and spits out the refrain of “I only have a Christian education/And with a sullen mind I carry it”, he transmutes into some dark, demonic preacher.

Stepping away from Golden Sings That Have Been Sung, and after a stunning, faithful cover of Tim Hardin’s ‘If I Were A Carpenter’, Walker gives lie to his recent assertions of being sick and tired of playing his earlier songs. He first imbues the title song from his last album Primrose Green and then the concluding ‘Summer Dress’ with a wild mercurial spirituality that moves them both far above and beyond their studio versions.

Photo credit: Simon Godley

Golden Sings That Have Been Sung is released on 19th August 2016 through Dead Oceans. It can be bought HERE

And HERE is the 10/10 God Is In The TV review of this incredible album.

God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.