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Ryley Walker: Real Music and Real Ale!

When you come from Rockford, Illinois, real ale as we in the UK know it is not something you are brought up with. But a pint of Robinson's Unicorn Bitter was enjoyed by singer and songwriter Ryley Walker at his post-gig wind down at The Castle on Manchester's Oldham Street, after his barnstorming performance round the corner at the Band on The Wall last Sunday night.

I had missed the opening act, Meg Baird, though she did come on to accompany Ryley on his final song of the evening. I caught the second half of the set by the next act, Lee Southall, who, in his words "used to be in a band called The Coral, but I'm not now." He sang several pleasant tunes, accompanied on acoustic guitar,  a perfectly acceptable support act.

There was then a short gap before the main act. The place, though not full, was pretty busy with a wide range of people of all ages there. I had got pretty close to the front, although my plan was to move further back after a few tunes. In the end I stayed where I was, as I had a good view and was enjoying myself.

So, Ryley Walker appeared. He should have been joined by legendary double bass player, Danny Thompson, but unfortunately he was unavailable due to unforeseen circumstances, so it was just the one man and his acoustic guitar. And excellent he was.

A tousle-haired Bohemian, he kept us spellbound with his intricate guitar work and some superb songs and tunes, imbued with a whole lotta passion. And despite originating from over the Atlantic, his music contains echoes of great singers from the British Isles such as Bert Jansch, John Martyn, and Van Morrison, with a twist of Tim Buckley, I thought. And, unlikely as it was, he only played one song from his album, his first, the title track, 'Primrose Green', which meant there was no place for my personal favourite, 'Sweet Satisfaction'. It was virtually all new material from his new album, which he told me will be released in September, and which, on this showing, is going to be a cracker. And it is very few artists that will go down this somewhat daring route, as normally it is a means to promote what is out there. I have to say though that the tracks he played were excellent, and he kept the audience enthralled all the way through. Just one man and his guitar, but what a sound.

I had a pint at the Band on the Wall after the gig, but then moved on to The Castle, where a few minutes later Ryley Walker appeared, we got chatting, he asked about British beers, and I bought him that pint. A nice guy with an easy-going manner and an obvious deep passion for his craft. The tour is over now, but he is playing the odd festival date over the next few months, and if you get chance to see him next time he is in your area, he comes highly recommended.

In the meantime I look forward to that new album coming out in September, but to give you a flavour, here he is, performing 'Sweet Satisfaction'....


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