Ryley Walker – Hoxton Square Bar And Kitchen, London

US Jazz/folk young gun stuns London crowd
Hoxton Bar & Grill,  02/09/15


 

imageThe autumnal rain that precedes Ryley Walker’s set is apt tonight. There’s a joyful, freeing feel to his latest work mixed with a creeping sense of foreboding dark clouds across the horizon. His music is a perfect gumbo of West Coast sun dappled psych-folk mixed with free jazz inflections and a lyrical content that, not unlike the Soho Folk boom of the mid-late ’60s aims to reflect the conflicting nature of everyday life.

However, don’t be mistaken in thinking it’s simply a re-enactment of a long lost vibe. In the live context, Walker’s compositions are a platform for things to go well beyond the confines of any Nick Drakeisms that plague a musician who utilises the fingerpicking acoustic guitar style as their primary weapon. His original material has been growing in stature amongst those in the know, and there’s an anticipation to see how the songs have evolved during the touring process.

A notorious vinyl fanatic — for proof, see his involvement in the recently reissued primitive guitar gem on Tompkins Square; John Hulbert’s Opus III – at 26, Walker has grown up during the emergence of a truly creative period in US-independent guitar-based music. He is continually discovering (via John Fahey and Sonny Sharrock, amongst others) the sources and more extreme ends of what his instrument can do and emphatically displays his capabilities during a spellbinding set.

Perhaps the difficulty to date has been that what he does live hasn’t quite come across in the recorded work of his initial two long players but, judging by set-opener ‘Sullen Mind’ which draws the crowd into silence, it feels like it’s only a matter of time before it will. Taking the bold move of playing this new song to open with shows the sense of fearlessness he has. ‘On The Banks Of The Old Kishwaukee’ follows; along with the title track of his second LP, ‘Primrose Green’. However, tonight they’re transmogrified into paeans that transcend the original recordings by a country mile. The former feels like it starts a little further up the river, evoking the sights and sounds of the Mississippi to a small, packed room on the other side of the world, whilst the latter (“We’re playing the hits tonight!” he jokes) takes a sideways lurch into a shuffling old school, almost Doors-like groove for several minutes before the introductory riff is played and becomes recognisable from the record’s languorous take.

There are no slouches in his band either; Brian J Sulpizio’s melodious yet fierce guitar work complements the more ferocious elements of Walker’s frenzied strumming throughout, whilst also equally able to provide a lilting tone to ‘Primrose Green’. The sound is anchored by Anton Hatwich’s Double Bass and Ståle Liavik Solberg’s drums, providing dexterous fingerwork and shimmering cymbal action respectively on another as yet unreleased song, ‘Funny Thing She Said’. Keyboardist Ben Boye, who has been Walker’s foil in the musical direction for many of the set’s wilder moments, draws out unearthly sounds in the song’s beginning, even going so far as to use a set of house keys on the keys(!) which gives an ethereal quality to the proceedings.

Despite it being early days, Walker is already being heralded in some circles for taking on the mantle of psych-folk. But, it’s not where he’s at, it’s where he will take it that makes him so thrilling. It’s also telling that only one song (‘Clear The Sky’) is played from his 18-month old debut, All Kinds Of You. The sound Walker is developing continues to captivate. With a voice that veers between mellifluous and delicate – as displayed during a beatific solo spot covering Tim Hardin’s ‘If I Were A Carpenter’ and John Martyn’s take on ‘Cocain’ – to the guttural, primal howls and yelps on ‘Summer Dress’, his intensity is mesmerising, whilst the band can only do their damnedest to keep the train on the track. No matter how seemingly reckless it gets, the beauty of it all is that Walker doesn’t know any more than the lucky few who attended this event, what’s going to happen next.

Bowing out with a sublime, gossamer-light cover of Van Morrison’s ‘Fair Play’, there’s no doubting the crowd’s rapt appreciation, having witnessed a near flawless set of old, new and borrowed tunes.

It’s great to see him at this emerging stage of his career. Watch Ryley Walker go – it’s going to be a gloriously bumpy ride!

​​​​​​​​​​M Le Breton

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10 Of The Best: The Supremes’ Deep Cuts

 

To celebrate the publication of Shindig! #48 here are 10 overlooked tunes from the catalogue of America’s most successful girl group of the ’60s, The Supremes, as chosen by the Shindig! team. Check the pages of the magazine for detailed track-by-track annotation and comments by none other than Mary Wilson herself.


 

1. YOUR HEART BELONGS TO ME (Single, 1962)

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The Urges – Grand Social, Dublin

Dublin’s psychedelic rock ’n’ rollers wow on home turf

Friday April 17th, Grand Social, Dublin


Peter Smith of The Urges. Photo by Keith Geraghty

Following their excellent garage-psych/punk debut, Psych Ward, The Urges have totally embraced psychedelia, absorbed it and issued their own perfect strain; a true mix of UK and US genes. The song arrangements are so well-crafted that their influences appear for just long enough to allow a knowing grin to break before they reclaim them as The Urges’ own DNA. Their audience tonight gets an airing of almost all of the new album, which has recently been completed.

This band is exciting to watch. In the past, singer Jim Walters’ garage acrobatics may have disguised the fact that he’s a gifted guitarist. He has a strong, true voice and tonight a Fender Jazzmaster hangs permanently from his shoulder laying down the chords with Peter Smith complementing or cutting through with lead riffs. And those riffs spun from his Gibson SG evoke the best of ’60s UK psych-rock. Also visually striking is the impact of Jim and Pete sharing vocals. Unique for this gig is the appearance of their trumpet-led brass section.

They kick off with two new songs, ‘Face Made For Sorrow’ and ‘Now I See’. Thomas Darcy on Farfisa keyboard (actually a Nord) counterbalances with a strong US garage sound. When he adds his voice to the blend the trio’s accuracy in powerful harmonising is quite something. Jim takes vocals on his own for the excellent ‘Strangers’ with Pete’s ’66 Harrison guitar riff, before their last single, ‘Fire Burning’, appears in between two new and as yet unrecorded songs – ‘Satellite in A’ goes into an orbit parallel with that of ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’ before heading on its own trajectory. ‘Vibration’ gives us stacked vocals in the best West Coast tradition. Their Beck-era Yardbirds tribute, ‘Find Another Way’, follows and the audience is stunned. With Ross McGee so solid on bass it allows Ken Mooney to swoop around the kit driving the band hard at times but also blending jazzy touches to create space as the frontline of guitars and keys create an enviable psych soundscape.

Hard to imagine but the most laid-back song of the night is ‘I’ve Been Here Before’, the flip of their last single, before a longer version of new 45, ‘Passing Us By’, appears. In a short interlude we get a Mexicano trumpet a la CA Quintet followed by a Ray Manzarek-style organ run bookended by bursts of Forever Changes brass. Extraordinary. Only ‘Jenny, Jenny’ from the old repertoire gets an airing before the outstanding ‘Time Will Pass’, with its Byrdsian guitar chimes. The set finishes on ‘Echoes Softly’, the brass punching a ‘Reward’-model Teardrop Explodes onto the musical backdrop. We were warned beforehand that a time curfew would likely prevent an encore and so it was. This was a brave return, and mesmerising. On this evidence The Urges’ new album, due in late autumn, is likely to be a landmark release for them.

Brian Neavyn


The Urges perform their recent single, ‘Passing Us By’

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10 Of The Best: Buffalo Springfield Covers

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The sainted quintet of Stephen Stills, Neil Young, Richie Furay, Dewey Martin and Bruce Palmer may have existed for barely two years but their influence, even at the time, was enormous, far outstripping their not inconsiderable commercial success.

Boasting three hugely talented singer-songwriters, it was no surprise that their material was quickly seized by a wide range of acts looking to bask in the Springfield’s reflected glory. Here, we present 10 of our favourite contemporary interpretations of their songs.


1. Sergio Mendes & Brasil ’66 – For What It’s Worth (1970)

Supremely funky take of Stills’ rallying cry from the final Brasil ’66 album, 1970’s Stillness. Dozens of acts have covered the Springfield’s signature tune.

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10 Of The Best: The Stones In The ’70s

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In June, The Rolling Stones’ ninth album, 1971’s Sticky Fingers, is reissued in a bewildering number of formats; from standard remastered CD and LPs to deluxe and super deluxe boxed editions on CD, vinyl and digital. Bonus goodies include previously unreleased alternate takes of album tracks, a March ’71 live show presented as Get Yer Leeds Lungs Out, DVD footage of two tracks from a Marquee gig from the same month, a 7″ coupling ‘Brown Sugar’ and ‘Wild Horses’, various books, postcards and other ephemera. Oh, and not forgetting a real zip!

As Sticky Fingers was the Stones’ first album of the ’70s, Shindig!’s BRIAN GREENE feels moved to select his personal Top 10 Stones cuts from the “sucking in” decade.


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