Monday, 29 May 2017

Ryley Raga-Reverie Walker - Phoenix, Exeter, 28th May, 2017


We were treated to a different Ryley Walker to the one who performed with Danny Thompson at Bristol back in February of last year. Then it was the folk Walker, the one from Primrose Green and wearing obvious inspirations on the individual but influenced sleeve, and a fine line in banter with Thompson who was always the king of this with one of those influences, John Martyn. There were the raga jams, and the whoops and hollers, but all from Walker on his acoustic, plugged in, yes, but more the solo focus that many will have wanted to see. I did, and loved: read here.

At the Phoenix last night we saw a different Walker, though one you can find all over YouTube, and it was these jam-oriented, band-based raga reveries, this night with Chicago band Health&Beauty who opened with their own jazzrock set and then supported Walker’s with wonderful driving jams, not least the anchoring percussion of Frank Rosaly. Guitarist Brian J. Sulpizio also provided fine guitar work, though he might have ripped it up more here and there – his sound, perhaps, lost a little in the acoustics of the venue, or that lost for my friends and me sitting in the higher balcony.

Those expecting the folk-focus may have been a little disappointed. There was a formula to last night’s performance. Apart from Primrose Green with its distinctive walking up and down bass line, I think all the songs were from Walker’s latest Golden Sings That Have Been Sung [but I can’t be sure] and they were either introduced by expansive instrumental openers or moved into expansive instrumental jams, driven by the riffling guitar of Walker and always building to a crescendo before moving back to the melody – such as it is – of the song.

So the set opened with The Roundabout and this, as melody, is very similar to the others on the album Golden Sings…., his signature sound, and the performance became – and needs to be judged as – a whole. The same with Funny Thing She Said and Sullen Mind. There was also a cover of Tim Hardin’s If I Were a Carpenter, a song from a dead dude [!], and it was immediately evident how Walker’s vocal is very similar, and suited to the song, which did move into another jam, and these jams also reminded me a little of The Doors playing live.

I was caught up in the reverie all night, and still a little this morning. Far out.

Walker and Rosaly

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