When: Thu., Aug. 13, 8 p.m. 2015
It’s been a good year for Ryley Walker, mostly thanks to the enthusiastic acclaim for his stunning Primrose Green (Dead Oceans), which has resulted in endless touring and high-end concert appearances like the excellent set he played at the Pitchfork Music Festival. When I interviewed him earlier this year he expressed concern that his focus on his working band might limit his ability to collaborate for collaboration, so I’m happy to see he hasn’t given up his fruitful partnership with fellow guitarist Bill MacKay. Land of Plenty (Whistler)—a fantastic new recording culled from the duo’s series of low-key, all-instrumental concerts at the Whistler in January—is due out next week. Each guitarist has specific areas of expertise: MacKay has a strong grasp of jazz, with a soft spot for early fusion, while Walker excels with expansive folk. Together, though, their range and ability grow exponentially without falling into a single style: potent traces of Indian classical ragas, American primitive fingerpicking, old-timey mountain music, and traditional British folk course through the pair’s tightly integrated playing, bits of improvisation showing their almost preternatural interaction and subtle give-and-take. It’s as if they’ve been working together for years, an impression left by not only their melodic grace but also the resonant clarity of their individual tones, which together produce a sonic color burst much richer than would seem possible for the simple product of a pair of guitars. Given Walker’s schedule, I wouldn’t take the opportunity to hear him in this intimate setting lightly. —Peter Margasak MacKay and Walker also play at Whistler on Wed 8/12.