Will Varley ‘As The Crow Flies’ (Smugglers Records)
The second album from multi tasking London folk singer Will Varley comes via Smugglers Records – a co-operative of South East musicians whose admirably organic efforts in supporting artists and running their own festival are a breath of fresh air and a V sign to the likes of corporate rock and the lure of ‘instant fame’ media.
Having supported his first album with a commitment to some serious gigging, including a ‘walking tour’ of the South East, and also taking time to self publish his first novel, Will recorded the new material album in the old smuggling tunnels which run through basements of cottages beneath the seaside town of Deal in Kent. With the help of producer David Hatton Jnr alongside some helpful musicians drafted in and fuelled by red wine and Glen Moray, he’s come up with another thought provoking set of songs written on the road and in various drinking establishments of Deal. And it’s thought provoking on different levels; from the real life tale of South African folk singer Khulekani Khumalo who supposedly rose from the dead last year, to tirades on the ordeal of self service checkouts which dominate our supermarkets, the full spectrum is given the Varley treatment.
Nowhere is the range more evident than on the hilarious, briskly delivered and sharply observed tale of the trials and tribulations of ‘The Self-Checkout Shuffle’ which contrasts acutely with the closing ‘Down The Well’ and ‘Soldiers On The Wall’ where the lyrics take a deeper and darker turn. Of course, there are topical and political references relying on some rather unconventional images without getting too controversial or contentious (Nick Clegg on Tetris?)
On the exquisite reflections of the title track, ‘As The Crow Flies’ he makes you smile and makes you ponder as the lyric switches from childhood memories of rescuing birds (we’ve all done it haven’t we?) and long gone pets buried in the garden, all the while gently tugging at the emotions, illustrating how often we contemplate on “how the future turned so quickly into the past”.
Although the insightful lyrics are a highlight of the album, the subtle backing of Will’s underrated guitar playing provides a perfect soundtrack as he spins out his words. It’s a bit old hat to say so, but at times there are moments of Dylanesque troubadour stylings, particularly in the narrative pieces and delivery against some finely picked guitar.
With a live show billed as ‘anarchic’ – audience participation, comedy moments and playing two songs at once – it’s well worth getting out to see him play in a small local venue running through October. He’s just as likely to offer up a fiercely passionate song as a shaggy dog story or something melancholy and evocative.
At a time when the folk/acoustic/roots genre is packed with so many talented young musicians making breakthrough albums and gaining critical acclaim, Will Varley is yet another one whose name needs adding to an ever growing ‘one to watch’ list as he climbs out of a well ploughed furrow as someone not afraid to stick his head above the parapet.
1. Where The Wild wind Blows
2. Blood And Bone
3. Weddings And Wars
4. As The Crow Flies
5. I Got This E-mail
6. She’s Been Drinking
7. When You’re Gone
8. Until The Grass Gets Greener
9. The Self Checkout Shuffle
10. Down The Well
11. Soldiers On The Wall