Touring on an absolutely brilliant co-bill that simultaneously represents tender folk and sharp noise, Ryley Walker and Jessica Pratt stopped in at Allston’s Great Scott to blow the minds of the audience assembled there.
Ryley Walker’s set was first. His album from earlier this year, Primrose Green, made some waves in mainstream music publications, being lauded for its idiosyncratic take on electric folk and drawing comparisons to Bert Jansch.
Performing with the entire Primrose Green band, Walker wasn’t interested in pandering to the larger-than-life comparisons and similarly refused to rest on the laurels of critical acclaim. Opening with a full ten minutes of swirling jams, the guitarist’s instrumental work eventually blossomed into a fresh, unreleased song known as “Sullen Mind.”
If any comparisons need be drawn, this night saw Walker as closer kin to an early John Martyn, with powerful Rhodes-style keyboards and upright bass complementing the singer’s twelve-string acoustic guitar work. The band was being directed in a new and challenging direction, away from the more acoustic work of Walker’s past albums and into the territory of improvisational, noisy jazz, not unlike the sound of very early ’70s Grateful Dead. Settling into a final jam that segued into the title track of Primrose Green, Walker and band set the stage on fire and left the audience on their toes and wanting more.
Following this revue of incendiary rock ‘n roll, Jessica Pratt’s set was an extreme shift in tone. The Los Angeles songstress took the stage accompanied only by guitarist Cyrus Gengras, who provided pastoral touches and silvery tones as Pratt spun her dreamy lyrics like a web around the room. Suddenly, this raucous bar had transformed into an acute listening room.
Only in her 20s, Pratt exudes a certain worldly wisdom that carries no sense of pretense. Over the course of her set, her voice was strong and direct, her songs airy and yet striking. Largely culled from Pratt’s release on Drag City Records, On Your Own Love Again, the set was warmly received by an audience stunned to silence. As I mentioned to Walker during a short break in Pratt’s set, whoever’s idea it was to pair these two on a tour together has a great head on their shoulders, and the densely packed room at Great Scott seemed to agree with this sentiment.