Martin Walker @ Googie's, 8-25-07
Photo by Teddy Maki
“New York is cold but I like where I’m living/ There’s music on Clinton Street all through the evening.” That’s what I heard when I walked into Googie’s in August, and it feels even more appropriate now. On Ludlow, only a few streets removed from Clinton, I admired how true Leonard Cohen’s couplet remains today. No matter how sweltering or frigid the city gets, our music options are always intimidatingly rich. Top-tier headliners vie nightly with buzz-heavy up-and-comers; genres and styles are as diverse as the neighborhoods that inspire them.
New York is also a city of secrets, and seeing Martin Walker perform that night felt like a secret. On the top floor of The Living Room, Walker performs weekly on Wednesdays with a piano, a guitar and accompanist Jimi Zhivago. It’s a simple set-up, but it’s all he needs. Drawing primarily from his recent album, Nylon, he sings evocatively of subjects like alcoholism, loneliness and rocky relationships. He freely draws comparisons to artists like Cohen and Nick Cave that his weighty baritone and sorrowed subjects corroborate. He makes music meant for low-watt lights and wintry streets, half-drunk wine bottles and late-night subway cars. It struck a chord in August, but it makes even more sense among November’s blustery drear.
In person, Walker stayed fairly faithful to his album versions. On certain songs though, his voice would take on an extra force or sharper heft, as if he were suddenly reminded of the lyrics’ reference points. Out of the album’s familiar context, songs that didn’t stand out as much also gained new prominence in their performance. There was the benefit of the live setting as well—watching a singer excise such clearly personal revelations in an intimate setting of about ten tables is an automatic experience. Stripped of production elements, of the disconnect of digital technology, of real world distractions, the audience and the performer could commune in a more elemental way. In a city so overwhelming, we could partake in music that wasn’t afraid to be small or vulnerable. It had a space to inhabit and in Walker, a singer who can make even the pain of urban melancholia sound alluring.
Martin Walker plays at Googie's on Wednesday. You can also stream his album Nylon here.
* MP3: "Fools" - Martin Walker from Nylon
* MP3: "We Are All One" - Martin Walker from Nylon [Buy it]
* Website: Martin Walker Music
* Previously: It's winter again and New York's been broken
"My Darkest Hour"
(Videos by Martingwalker)