RYLEY WALKER @ Mojos gets 7/10

Ryley Walker @ Mojos Bar Fremantle

w/ Rabbit Island, Fall Electric
Monday, December 17, 2019 


Ryley Walker treated fans to a night of exploratory folk guitar at Mojos on Monday night, demonstrating why he stands as one of the most interesting guitar players around today.

Fall Electric

Opening proceedings were local acts Fall Electric and Rabbit Island. Fall Electric have a great sound, meshing main man Andrew Ryan’s folky vocals and wistful narratives against the dynamic cello of Tristen Parr. With a repertoire spanning sombre ballads and more energetic folk-pop, it was a colourful opening to the night.

Rabbit Island followed. Essentially a one-woman act in local musician Amber Fresh, this was a powerful performance as Fresh delivered a fine set of emotional keyboard-driven ballads.

Rabbit Island

Ryley Walker cut an interesting figure as he made his way to the stage. Upon first hearing his music your mind is cast back to English folk legends such as John Martyn, Richard Thompson or Nick Drake. His voice is muscular while remaining delicate. His predominantly acoustic, folky guitar playing is nimble yet revels in open space. For someone whose music is imbued with a dusty wisdom well beyond his years, it’s refreshing to see that in person Walker is much more tongue-in-cheek. Dressed in a loosely buttoned shirt and shorts, Walker was laconic and self-deprecating, his humour dry as a bone. Whether it was talking about Perth weather and beaches (“My corn-fed, Austin-bred ass can’t take the sun”), the trouble with Jetstar or the resemblance of Cairns locals to UFC fighters, Walker’s stage banter was on point throughout.

Ryley Walker

As a set, this was primarily a vehicle for Walker’s entrancing guitar explorations. The jazzy full-band atmospherics from his solo records (and snatches of flute from latest effort Deafman Glance) were unfortunately not to be heard live, as it was just Walker and his guitar. Thankfully this is an instance where one man’s guitar can do all the talking. Most songs were preceded by long, expansive guitar meditations. It was all in the picking hand: Walker’s thumb played the rhythm while his fingers played out all sorts of beautiful fiddling hammer-ons and pull-offs. The set started with some soft picking that evolved into a hypnotic drone, eventually coalescing into the opening riff to Halfwit in Me in what was an unrestrained performance. Following this was a faster piece that morphed into Primrose Green, a particularly sophisticated slice of English folk which featured chugging rhythm over cascading guitar lines.

Ryley Walker

Walker showed his eclecticism with a take on Tim Hardin’s If I Were a Carpenter, whose modest everyman lyrics make it a natural folk song. Following this was a hypnotic guitar piece driven by undulating wah-wah swells, a truly brain-melting performance in Walker’s own words (adding that the wah-wah could fry your brain so thoroughly that you could eat it with Dijon mustard). The set ended with bright tones that gave way to the unmistakable ring of Roundabout, Walker’s most beautiful tune and one that he carried off with finesse.

Ryley Walker

It was a fine performance suited to Mojos’ personal surrounds. It wasn’t perfect by any means, with a bit too much time spent tuning and with Walker’s voice taking a back step to the guitar more than it should’ve. Sadly missing were tracks like Summer Dress, which give Walker’s voice room to shine. Instead, the shining star was Walker’s six-string, and nobody was complaining. It was a free-form and trance-like set that, in its best moments, invited listeners to close their eyes and get carried away.


Photos by Linda Dunjey

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