Getintothis’ Sean Bradbury soaks up a magical atmosphere as Ryley Walker stole the collective breath of a captive audience at The Phil.
On Ryley Walker‘s 2015 album Primrose Green, the fresh-faced American guitarist surrounded himself with a host of Chicago’s finest jazz and experimental musicians to take his folk and blues stylings off in various unpredictable, free-spirited directions and create a stellar – and critically-acclaimed – second full release.
Tonight at the Philharmonic Hall‘s Music Room he is accompanied by just one man, but an individual whose big, bold double bass sound can fill the shoes of a whole band when required.
Danny Thompson and Walker are at the back end of an 11-night UK tour that is very much a neat fit, with the 76-year-old stalwart’s time playing and recording with John Martyn, Tim Buckley, Nick Drake and many more no doubt soundtracking a significant chunk of Ryley‘s musical inspiration.
They rippled into the set with an extended jam, Thompson skulking and sliding from the top to the bottom of his bass while Walker flailed and finger-picked with increasing intensity before settling into Sullen Mind.
While there was a pure and palpable chemistry between the pair from the off, there were some early moments that felt anchored by mutual admiration; almost as if things locked in a little too comfortably and lacked a bit of bite. But as the evening wore on they really started to hit a sweet spot, not least on Summer Dress where Thompson underpinned Walker‘s wilder edge with measured serenity and their sounds polarised to perfect effect.
Funny Thing She Said showcased another beautiful blend; Walker‘s vocals flickering between wounded-croon and primal-yelp, with Thompson dancing delightfully in the gaps left by his misty, melancholic chords.
The absolute standout was the first song in the encore which saw Walker bring his John Martynesque A-game – percussive waves of hypnosis with his guitar and an emotionally charged lover’s address with his voice – before Thompson swooped in to support.
They closed the night with On The Banks Of The Old Kishwaukee, which rolls along pleasantly on record but is a much more thunderous affair live, Walker picking a storm at the start and both men building it up to a whirlwind finish together.
All-in-all, this was a wonderful meeting of minds between old master and young pretender, which they themselves seemed to enjoy just as much as the audience that rose to applaud them at the end.
Photos by Getintothis’ John Johnson