Marfa Myths: Jessica Pratt and Ryley Walker at the Capri
Jessica Pratt by Waylon O’Day
I can’t remember the last time I’ve been to a festival this interesting. It will be something I touch on at the beginning of each of these articles reviewing last weekend’s festivities in the Far West Texas town of Marfa. I think I’ll start by saying I don’t think I remember the last time I went to a concert that had chairs out for people to sit in. It’s a very foreign concept to me, especially in the context of a music festival. However, when placed in the context of the two musicians that started off Friday’s festivities at the Capri, Jessica Pratt and Ryley Walker, both make sense, albeit for different reasons.
Hailing from the Windy City of Chicago, Ryley Walker is a character to say the least. When he’s not commenting on how his brain “f*****g melted” on his thirty-hour drive down from Illinois or making step-dad jokes, he’s delivering folksy, melancholic indie music that reminds me of the late Elliot Smith. His lyrics are sometimes so straight-forward, they come across as brutally honest and un-tethered. His ability to finger-pick his guitars is extremely admirable. Although he is a fantastic performer, the best parts of the set came in between songs when he would poke fun at his absent tour manager, who couldn’t make the trip because he had to go watch his son play tee-ball. I will say this, if Ryley Walker decides he wants to give up music and start doing stand-up, he’s definitely got a future in it. Although I am not extremely familiar with his music, I was able to tease out a few of the tracks performed during Walker’s set, including “Primrose Green,” “Roundabout,” and “On the Banks of the Old Kishwaukee,” which is a “must listen” if you ever found yourself singing “Home” by Edward Sharp and the Magnetic Zero’s. The music, much like that of most of the artists that performed at this year’s Marfa Myths, matched the environment in which it was performed.
Let’s just get this out of the way, Jessica Pratt does not get enough credit or attention. Her music is this unique blend of folk and minimalism that creates this sort of mesmerizing affect akin to staring into a fire on a cold night. I had never really delved into her discography prior to learning I’d be going to this festival, although I had seen her name on numerous occasions. Once I first heard “Bushel Hide,” I was instantly kicking myself for all of those days I wasted not treating myself to the musical stylings of Jessica Pratt. Performing with herself, a back-up vocalist, and a keyboardist, the performance was as minimalistic as can be, and painfully intimate. The emotions extracted by Pratt, in not only her voice, but in her achingly blue minor chords, moved me to goosebumps on multiple occasions throughout her set. Maybe it was her blonde hair, maybe or her voice, but I couldn’t help feeling like I was watching Stevie Nicks as Pratt performed songs such as “Half Twain the Jesse,” as well as new personal favorite “Night Faces,” both from her 2012 self-titled debut album.
This concert was an excellent start to what was going to be a very unique weekend of music, art, and film. Keep checking the site for more coverage of this year’s Marfa Myths.