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Ryley Walker: The Half Wit in Hebden Bridge....

Last night I saw Ryler Walker for the second time this year.

Last time, back in February, it was in Manchester's Band On The Wall, when he appeared on his own, last night it was at the Trades Club in Hebden Bridge, where he was accompanied by a drummer and bass player, both from Scandinavia.

So, only a few months, but a few differences.

The Trades Club is a fantastic venue, a friendly Labour Club and base for locals, and also very welcoming and supportive of the myriad of acts from all over the planet who over the years have rocked up in the town every week to perform there. This welcoming, family feel, is no doubt part of the reason why these artists, often of International stature, have consistently appeared over the years at a venue in a town with a resident population of less than 5,000.

There was no question Ryley Walker felt at home last night. More than once he shouted out 'Hey you guys, this venue is beautiful!. This place is awesome!' (all expletives deleted). From the outset he was bantering and telling tales to the almost-full crowd, much of which had us in stitches. Indeed, I can't think of anyone I have seen anyone other than Show Of Hands' Steve Knightly who can gain as many between-song laughs than our Ryley. Hey, if it all goes wrong musically, could a career in stand-up beckon?

But that's not going to happen. No, because the music last night was even better than when I had seen him in February. The band helped take his music to a different level, with the drummer in particular - who could have passed himself off as one of the Mael Brothers from Sparks - being incredibly inventive, adding an extra dimension to Ryley's incredible guitar work.

Earlier, we had been treated to a lovely set from Holly Macve, originally from Holmfirth but now based in Brighton, whose set of folk and country-style songs showcased her superb voice and range. A real pleasure to listen to, and well worth checking out.

Most of Ryley Walker's set came from his imminent new release, 'Golden Sings That Have Been Sung'. He played the opening track, 'The Half Wit In Me', which reflects his constant self-deprecating manner, starting off with an instrumental spell before getting into the heart of the song. Many of the songs had lengthy spells of improvisation, with Ryley extracting an amazing variety of sounds from his acoustic guitar. On this showing, the new album - which was given a 9 out of 10 in Uncut - is a must-buy. They also played an amazing version of 'Primrose Green', the title track from last year's fantastic album which was given a superb workout, demonstrating that the quality of Ryley's songs allows them to flourish under different treatments. 

Whilst he still retains strong influences from the likes of John Martyn, Tim Buckley, and Bert Jansch, last night showed that he has musically moved on considerably in the past 6 months. He is drawing from a host of influences, much from the musical scene in Chicago, the city where he grew up, and to which he constantly referred last night.

Last time I saw him we had a beer in The Castle in Manchester after the gig. Couldn't hang around last night, sadly, but even so what a brilliant evening!  If you are anywhere near to a Ryley Walker gig, make sure you get yourself there. One not to be missed....

'Golden Sings That Have Been Sung' is released on Dead Ocean Records on August 19th.

The Trades Club, Holme Street, Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire, HX7 8EE. Tel: 01422 845265


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