Norwich is full of historic churches; this church of St Swithin was converted into an Arts Centre in 1980 and won the NME award for best small venue in Britain in 2014.
This was a suitably atmospheric venue for US singer/songwriter Ryley Walker, leading his band on acoustic and 12-string guitar, with drums, double bass, electric piano and electric guitar. This enabled them to reproduce the textures of the stunning recent album but the arrangements went way beyond copying the recorded versions. Opening with ‘On The Banks Of The Old Kishwaukee’ it was several minutes before we arrived at the river and Ryley’s mellow vocals. The audience and most of the band seemed rapt as the waves of sound rolled around the old church. Similar delights followed, including the album title track ‘Primrose Green’.
Ryley has an elegant finger picking style, showcased in a solo set part way through which included a cover of Tim Hardin’s ‘If I Were A Carpenter’ and a great version of ‘Cocaine Blues’. He conjures up a similar intimacy and connection as the late John Martyn on these solo tracks and shows the timeless nature of the music.
An evening of excellent songs and performance at a great venue.
(A mention of the support act, intense singer/songwriter/guitarist Danny Whitehouse. I didn’t see his full set but I was impressed that instead of conventional merchandise he was giving away old library books containing hand-written messages…)