LIVE: Ryley Walker @ the Half Moon, 10/28/16

Review and videos by Timothy Raab

I met several friendly folks who had traveled quite a distance for Ryley Walker’s gig at the Half Moon in Hudson – from as far away as Ithaca, Northern New Jersey, Connecticut and the northern Adirondacks. The crowd was a full mix of people from age 21 to their 60s, all excited to hear Walker live, knowing he never plays two gigs the same, and hoping he would still be playing tunes from his latest CD, Golden Sings That Have Been Sung, released in April.

After revealing his stereo imaging techniques for giving his acoustic guitar a larger-than-life sound in a Reverb YouTube video a month ago, guitar master Walker played his recent Half Moon show on a Guild electric guitar.

Walker began the set a 12-minute arrangement of the instantly likable, hypnotic and somewhat autobiographical “The Roundabout,” a tune heard at his Low Beat performance a year ago, when the tune was brand new and still developing. The interplay with second guitarist Bill MacKay was fresh, creative and crackling.

Walker’s usual musical sidekick, genius guitarist Brian Sulpizio, was already in Europe touring with his own band, Health & Beauty Club. (By now, Walker has joined Sulpizio for an intense, six-week roadtrip of Europe with the largest ensemble Walker has toured with out of the several European tours he has made since 2013.)

Walker’s duet work with guitarist Bill MacKay can be heard on the CD Land of Plenty and is also on YouTube, which had whetted my appetite, so it was a dream come true to hear them play together live.

Several folks in the crowd cheered in recognition when the band moved into a powerhouse, 14-minute version of “Sullen Mind.” With evidence of the Doors’ influence, the tune began with Antoin Hatwick tapping out hand and finger percussion on his stand-up bass alongside drummer Ryan Jewell (both of whom have performed on Walker’s CDs).

Following a spin through his favorite cover tune – Van Morrision’s “Fair Play” – Walker intended on closing out his show with the John Renbourne-like “Primrose Green,” the title track of his sophomore album and a true crowd-pleaser. (A very memorable version of this tune played in duet with Brian Sulpizio at the Half Moon back in May, 2015 can also be found on YouTube.

Afterward, the audience cheered incessantly until Walker returned for a rare encore. “Funny Thing She Said,” a melancholy tune about the end of a relationship, began with a sprawling, spacey jam spiced with Middle Eastern influences, stretching out over 15 minutes.

The Roundabout
Sullen Mind
Fair Play (Van Morrison)
Primrose Green
Funny Thing She Said

LIVE: Ryley Walker @ the Low Beat, 10/12/15
LIVE: Ryley Walker @ BSP Lounge, 6/30/15
LIVE: Ryley Walker @ the Half Moon, 5/16/15

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