Ryley Walker, Cian Nugent | Links Hall at Constellation | Rock, Pop, Etc | Chicago Reader

Ryley Walker, Cian Nugent Member Picks Soundboard Recommended Image

When: Thu., March 20, 9:30 p.m. 2014

When I first interviewed fingerstyle guitar prodigy Ryley Walker around three years ago, he mentioned his interest in the soulful, expansive late-60s folk rock of Tim Buckley, Fred Neil, Tim Hardin, and the like. On the forthcoming All Kinds of You (due April 15 from Tompkins Square), he demonstrates what he's learned from those artists—he hitches his trippy melodic incantations to the rolling drums of Ben Billington and the walking bass lines of Dan Thatcher, as well as adorning them with delicate filigree from pianist Ben Boye and violist Whitney Johnson. The measured cool in Walker's elegant singing feels a little mannered, but considering how much growth and ambition he's already displayed at age 23—it takes real maturity to rein in impressive instrumental technique in the service of a group sound—I'll give him a pass for now. For this performance Walker plays in a duo with bassist Anton Hatwich.

Phenomenal young Irish guitarist Cian Nugent is also an astounding player, and like Walker he appears intent on moving beyond solo guitar (though he'll be playing unaccompanied tonight). On last year's Born With the Caul (No Quarter) he retooled his brand of American Primitive guitar for a full band—his assured playing remained at the heart of the three long pieces, but the shape-shifting arrangements and episodic writing derived extra richness from the ensemble's gripping counterpoint, competing strands of melody, and fine-tuned drama. His ambition seems even greater than Walker's—he sounds like he's trying to fold ragtime, jazz, rock, and American old-time music into a single coherent whole. —Peter Margasak

Price: $7

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