[Screen capture by Dan Schram]
Maybe that whole “old soul” saw is lame. Does a man need to have aged many decades to have lived hard, or to have seen the world through enough other people’s eyes? Does a man need to have suffered the physical indignities of age for his voice to be mournful? Is twenty-four too young to really know evil, to make heartbreak sound believable? Ryley Walker is that age. Define it by whatever trope you must, but Ryley Walker performs with a rugged grace and gut-wrenching, soul-searching level of realness that don’t come to men his age all that often. He sat down, at the rightmost end of a semicircle on Fletcher Opera Theater’s broad stage, as the final act to play there during this Hopscotch Music Festival. By the time he got up I felt a way that I hadn’t quite since seeing Hiss Golden Messenger take that same stage with a large band two years before. I don’t put any artist in the company of HGM lightly, but there I believe Ryley sits. He’s that good, the real deal, all of the great things it’s even possible to be when you’re sitting on just one album of “this kind” of material (Ryley’s previous work fell more to the experimental/noise end of the spectrum).
That LP, All Kinds of You, just arrived on Tompkins Square this April, but that material has new company in the incredibly strong output which dominated this set. Walker led off with a new song, followed by his first single, “The West Wind”, before heading into the gorgeous “Primrose Green”. Walker has already earned comparisons to Bert Jansch and Tim Buckley, and his current sound has a classicism to it that makes that fair. Walker huddled in his chair like an older man, taking long breaks between songs to get his tuning right, maybe set his head straight for the next song. Walker sings with depth, in a way that makes each song seem like it takes its own reserve of him. Away from the mic, he’s as amiable as a person comes; faced with his songs he’s transformed. These are songs that operate at some remove from even updated versions of traditional sounds; they seem almost unconcerned with modern flourishes. Kudos belong to Walker’s band, too, which includes a killer roster of players who give these songs not only shape but a live fluidity that makes them all the more special.
But don’t take our word for it. Walker will be appearing at CMJ on Friday, October 24 at an Aquarium Drunkard-sponsored showcase at Rough Trade. Don’t miss it, as the lineup contains many veterans of this site as well as special new bands.
We owe a large dose of gratitude to North Carolina-based taper Larry Tucker for recording and contributing this outstanding capture, made with Peluso American-made cardiod microphones and a soundboard feed. The quality is outstanding. Enjoy!
Stream the full set
Hopscotch Music Festival
Fletcher Opera Theater
Raleigh, NC USA
Exclusive download hosted at nyctaper.com
Recorded and produced by Larry Tucker
Peluso CEMC6-CK4 (Room center hung from balcony rail)>Fostex FR2-LE @ 24/48 + Soundboard> Edirol R09-HR @ 24/24>Adobe Audition (Mixing)>Izotope Ozone 5 (multi-band compression>lower sample rate> CD Wave>Flac
01 Summer Dress
02 The West Wind
03 Primrose Green
04 Hide In the Roses
05 Love Can Be Cruel
06 On the Banks of the Old Kishwaukee
07 Same Minds
08 Sweet Satisfaction
Ryley Walker – vocals, guitar
Ben Boye – keys
Anton Hatwich – bass
Brian Sulpizio – electric guitar
Frank Rosaly – drums
Jeb Bishop – trombone on final song