Singer-songwriter Jessica Pratt writes the kind of tranquil, meditative folk music that feels equally at home on a snowy winter afternoon or a calm summer evening. Her music has a retro feel to it, steeped as it is in the influences of artists such as Karen Dalton or Vashti Bunyan, yet like those artists it is so far removed from the tropes of anything that might be considered “popular” that it feels almost timeless. Her sophomore album, On Your Own Love Again, released on Drag City at the beginning of the year, continues down the musical path that she started on with her self-titled first album in 2012. Last Thursday evening, she brought this new album to the Rock and Roll Hotel.
Pratt’s performance was fragile and sparse, with electric guitarist Cyrus Gengras adding textures and harmonies which served to supplement her quiet, introspective vocals and her nylon string guitar. Without the vocal harmonies and additional instrumentation of the album versions the intimacy of the songs was amplified, with Pratt, seemingly off in her own world, bent over the microphone with her eyes closed throughout the performance. Drawing primarily from the new album, highlights of the set included the songs “Wrong Hand,” “Game That I Play,” and “Moon Dude.”
Opening for Pratt was Chicago guitar master Ryley Walker. His dense, jazz-influenced folk music providing a noisier, more chaotic counterpoint to Pratt’s quiet deliberation. Improvisation seemed to be the key to Walker’s set, as he and his band stretched out each of the three songs they played – a so-new-they-had-literally-just-written-it track called “Sullen Mind,” the title track to Walker’s latest album Primrose Green, and another new-ish track “Funny Thing She Said” – to over twelve minutes each with long, slow-building instrumental intros.
All photos by Matt Condon. Click to embiggen.