WILL VARLEY – Kingsdown Sundown (Extra Mile Recordings XMR124CD)

kingsdown sundownIf the time was ever ripe for a few protest songs it is now and Will Varley duly obliges on Kingsdown Sundown, his fourth full-length album. It isn’t all protest, however, and it certainly isn’t packed with political rantings. The songs are deep and thoughtful but when Will decides to tell it like it is he doesn’t hold back.

Musically it is deceptively simple, mostly just voice and acoustic guitar with some violin from Matt Tighe, percussion by Stewart Hughes and minimal electric guitar from producer Dave Hatton Jr. Two songs stand out immediately. The first is ‘To Build A Wall’ and I’m sure we all know what prompted that – “there’s many ways to build a wall” he sings. The second is the key track for me, ‘We Want Our Planet Back’. It says everything I want to scream at the world.

This may cause some controversy but there is so much of the young Bob Dylan in Will’s music. His voice isn’t “pretty” in the conventional sense and he sings in that lazy way that makes you think that his words are being sung straight from his head for the first time. It is supreme artistry that sounds like anything but artistry. Then there is the way he constructs his melodies, puts rhymes together and creates images. Take ‘One Last Look At The View’. It comes over as a song of the wilderness, a bit US road movie, until the line about a Premier Inn on the M25. ‘Something Is Breaking’ is really bleak in the same way that ‘Hard Rain’ is and ‘When She Wakes Up’ blends a love song with more of Will’s apocalyptic visions – “the revolution that you’ve been waiting for happened without you some years ago” is a chilling thought.

Kingsdown Sundown isn’t an easy album but it is so, so powerful, perfectly constructed to make the listener think hard about the world and our place in it.

Dai Jeffries

If you would like to order a copy of the one of the albums (in CD or Vinyl), download them or just listen to snippets of selected tracks (track previews are usually on the download page) then click on the WILL VARLEY – Kingsdown Sundown link to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website. Buying through Amazon on folking.com helps us to recover a small part of our running costs, so please order anything you need as every little purchase helps us.

ORDER – [CD]

ORDER – [VINYL]

Artist’s website: www.willvarley.com

‘To Build A Wall’ – official video:

Will Varley announces new album – November release

will varley

Will Varley has reached an unstoppable velocity since signing with Xtra Mile Recordings in 2015 and shows no signs of slowing down as we announce fourth album Kingsdown Sundown out 4th November 2016.

With the follow-up to the stellar Postcards From Ursa Minor, an album that propelled Will into unexplored territory, return tours with The Proclaimers and unbelievable summer festival sets, he continues to build upon broken spirits with this set of almost unbearably raw songs. First track to be lifted from the album is ‘To Build A Wall’ – an unnervingly timely indictment of simplistic solutions to incredible complex problems on both sides of the pond.

Recorded underneath a pub by the sea in Deal, Kent as the waves roared outside, Kingsdown Sundown is a bleak and uncompromising critique of the human condition, journeying deep into our dreams, faults, regrets and politics. The songs are more visceral and uneasy than before, with fights in KFC descending into world wars, the all too real plight of refugees and the recent rise in hate crime. A collection of folk songs written over the course of the last year while travelling and touring – written on tour buses and trains, scribbled on the back of set lists and receipts – Will says “these are the most honest songs I’ve ever written and they represent new ground for me creatively. They may not be radio-friendly, or even “friendly” at all, but I’ve been wanting to make a record like this for a long time.”

The rest of the album is hazier, more spectral and a phantom of memories, dreams, and hopes. If there’s one song that haunts as much as it heals and warms the soul, it’s ‘Let Your Guard Down’ which sounds like it was sung deeply into the howling wind in defiance, in hope and fear. The most directly political song ‘We Want Our Planet Back’ feels strongly enough to strap on an electric guitar and strum over Will’s patient protest, but it indirectly lends its brooding power to ‘Too Late Too Soon’ which seems ready to crumple and break, a sandcastle made of a simmering mood. ‘Back To Hell’ could have come from any period in superstitious folk history, a tale of vague menace, mysticism and the underworld. Finally,  ‘We’ll Keep Making Plans’ threatens to build to a crescendo, but instead lets us drift out into a mental sea where the sun is setting on what we knew in favour of the unknown, resolving to carry on, continuing to build our futures on shakier foundations. It’s somehow not dispiriting; it’s more driven by determination to allow sadness not to rule our lives, but be an important part of it.

If you would like to order a copy of the one of the albums (in CD or Vinyl), download them or just listen to snippets of selected tracks (track previews are usually on the download page) then click on the Will Varley link to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website. Buying through Amazon on folking.com helps us to recover a small part of our running costs, so please order anything you need as every little purchase helps us.

ORDER – [CD]

ORDER – [VINYL]

Artist’s website: http://www.willvarley.com/

‘To Build A Wall’ – official video:

The Folking Winners – Public Vote 2016

First of all, a big thank you to the thousands who voted in our inaugural Folkies awards. Congratulations to the winners and commiserations to the runners-up, although all our nominees are winners to the team who enjoyed their music, either live or on record, over the last year and placed them on the short list. Here are the folking public vote winners and now, may I have the first envelope please…

Soloist Of The Year – Steve Knightley

The Folking Winners - Steve Knightley

http://folking.com/steve-knightley-bio/


Best Duo – Show Of Hands

The Folking Winners - Show Of Hands
Photograph by Dai Jeffries

http://folking.com/show-of-hands-bio/


Best Band – Blackbeard’s Tea Party

Best Live Act – Blackbeard’s Tea Party

The Folking Winners - Blackbeard's Tea Party

http://folking.com/blackbeards-tea-party-bio/


Best Album – Disco At The Tavern – The Demon Barbers

The Folking Winners - Disco At The Tavern

http://folking.com/disco-at-the-tavern-review/


Best Musician – Peter Knight

The Folking Winners - Peter Knight

http://folking.com/peter-knight-bio


Rising Star – Will Varley

The Folking Winners - Will Varley

http://folking.com/will-varley-bio


Best International Artist – Gretchen Peters

The Folking Winners - Gretchen Peters
Photograph by Gina Binkley

http://folking.com/gretchen-peters-bio



If you would like to order a copy of an album (in CD or Vinyl) of any of the artists featured here, download an album or track or just listen to snippets of selected tracks (track previews are usually on the download page) then type what you are looking for in the search bar above to be taken to that relevant page via our associated partner Amazon’s website. Buying through Amazon on folking.com helps us to recover a small part of our running costs, so please order anything you need as every little purchase helps us.

Will Varley – bio

Will Varley - bio

Last year Will Varley walked out on stage at the Royal Albert Hall, shortly after signing a record deal with independent music champions Xtra Mile Recordings. His new album Postcards From Ursa Minor was released on October 30th and received extensive national airplay, with The Independent describing it as “A gem of a record”.

For the 28 year old folk-singer however, the road to The Albert Hall began in the early 2000’s whilst aimlessly busking around London with a fake id, writing hundreds of songs and playing two or three open mics a week. Varley was a regular at numerous acoustic nights and folk clubs throughout South London from an early age, and spent most of his teens travelling around the capital looking for places that would let him play a few songs.

In his early 20’s Varley moved to Deal, Kent enticed by cheap rent and great pubs. There along with a number of musicians he helped set up Smugglers Records, a collective of like minded independent musicians who help each other release their own music. Since it’s inception the collective has been instrumental in starting the careers of numerous artists as well as putting on their own sell out music festival deep in the Kent countryside, not far from the sea.

In 2011 Varley recorded his debut album Advert Soundtracks with Smugglers, and then set out on the road and walked a hundred and thirty miles with a guitar and tent on his back. Starting the walking tour at London Bridge he headed south east, strolling through the rolling hills of the Kent weald and singing songs to whoever would listen. He slept in barns, camped at the side of canals and played gigs in the corner of crowded pubs. By the time he strolled back to deal, despite the blisters and the aching muscles, word of his album had begun to spread and he had many a story to tell.

Varley’s live performances have become more and more anarchic over the years. Audience interaction, surreal improvised comedy between songs and chaotic stunts like playing two songs at the same time are now more often than not included in his shows, though he will just as quickly deliver a melancholic and heartbreaking ballad or a fiery protest song as he will a shaggy dog story or an amusing talking blues.

After self-publishing his first novel Sketch of A Last Day (Reaching No.1 in Kindle’s Political Fiction category) and almost two years of relentless gigging, including shows at the Occupy London protests & The Bank of Ideas, with the help of David Hatton Jnr. (of the band Cocos Lovers), eleven new songs were recorded in the basement of an old smugglers cottage in Deal. Outside the coastal wind rattled the doors and windows, fresh off the English Channel. In between sips of Glen Moray and glasses of red wine the pair drafted in a number of musicians to help record an album that was written partly on the road and partly in the smoking areas of Deal’s countless public houses.

Though still littered with his trademark humour, As The Crow Flies was a darker, more mature album which saw Varley’s poetry take centre stage, from the brutal honesty of the album’s title track, to the swaying cynicism of ‘Weddings and Wars’ in which he attempts a history of the world in under four minutes.

A second walking tour followed the release of As The Crow Flies, which saw Varley travelling 500 miles along England’s south coast, with a guitar on his back, entirely on foot. After the tour Varley played a sold out show at London’s Bush Hall. A couple of extensive tours with Beans On Toast helped to introduce his music to a whole new audience whilst gigs in Ireland, Belgium and Switzerland also saw Will take his first steps outside of the UK.

On March 29th, the troubador stepped out on stage at The Royal Albert Hall. About an hour before this he’d signed a deal with Xtra Mile Recordings, who are behind the success of acts like Frank Turner, Beans On Toast and To Kill A King. Less than a month later a digital only EP was released which Varley recorded live at one of his favourite music venues. The resulting EP Will Varley: Live At The Lighthouse peaked at number 14 in the iTunes Singer Songwriter charts.

The summer of 2015 saw Will supporting The Proclaimers on tour across the UK as well as performing at a long list of UK festivals including Secret Garden Party, Bestival and Green Man. He also spent much of this summer recording his third studio album with Tristan Ivemy producing. The album was released on October 30th to much critical acclaim and radio play. Soon after the release Will set off on a huge tour opening for Frank Turner, culminating in show at London’s Alexandra Palace.

Artist’s website: http://www.willvarley.com/

Welcome To The Folkies

With Oscar fever rising to a climax it’s time to say “Welcome To The Folkies” – the 2016 Folking Awards. We’ve sifted through the albums and performances of 2015 – always a long and difficult task punctuated by bouts of thumb-wrestling to settle disputes. Adopting the pattern followed by everyone else, here, in no order of precedence, are our nominations. With the exception of one category we have restricted our choices to British acts.

All nominations are 2016 Folking Awards winners.

Welcome To The Folkies

Soloist Of The Year

Steve Tilston
Sam Carter
Kathryn Roberts
Steve Knightley
Ange Hardy

Best Duo

Phillip Henry & Hannah Martin
India Electric Co.
Show Of Hands
Kathryn Roberts & Sean Lakeman
Clype

Best Band

Blackbeard’s Tea Party
Eliza Carthy & The Wayward Band
Tradarrr
False Lights
Merry Hell

Best Live Act

The Demon Barbers XL
Blackbeard’s Tea Party
Eliza Carthy & The Wayward Band
Tradarr
CC Smugglers

Best Album

Layers Of Ages – Peter Knight’s Gigspanner
Head Heart Hand – Megan Henwood
The Girl I Left Behind Me – India Electric Co.
It’s Not Your Gold Shall Me Entice – Elle Osborne
Disco At The Tavern – The Demon Barbers

Best Musician

Dan Walsh
Peter Knight
P.J. Wright
Chris Leslie
Kris Drever

Folking’s Rising Star

Will Varley
Sam Kelly
Wes Finch
India Electric Co.
Chris Cleverley

Best International Artist

Gretchen Peters
Tom Russell
Gandalf Murphy And The Slambovian Circus Of Dreams
Justin Townes Earle
Los Lobos

To give the awards a further edge, we opened the vote to our visitors and run a public poll in all of the 8 categories (as listed above).

The Public Vote closed Sunday 28 February at 20.00 hours and “The Folking Winners” have now been announced here at: http://folking.com/the-folking-winners/


If you would like to order a copy of an album (in CD or Vinyl) of any of the artists featured here, download an album or track or just listen to snippets of selected tracks (track previews are usually on the download page) then type what you are looking for in the search bar above to be taken to that relevant page via our associated partner Amazon’s website. Buying through Amazon on folking.com helps us to recover a small part of our running costs, so please order anything you need as every little purchase helps us.

WILL VARLEY – Postcards From Ursa Minor (XtraMile)

WILL VARLEY Postcards From Ursa MinorTipped as one of 2015’s Rising Stars by Time Out magazine, based in Deal, Kent, the 27-year-old singer-songwriter clearly has something of a determined work ethic, having toured his 2011 debut album, Advert Soundtracks, totally on foot, walking 130 miles carrying his guitar and tent, playing shows along the way. He also writes poetry and has published a political fiction novel, Sketch Of A Last Day.

Busker folk, somewhere between Billy Bragg, Dylan and Frank Turner, this is his third album and continues his propensity for, as the blurb puts it, “barely-concealed anger, or blatant piss-taking.” So, social commentary, politics and humour, then. The first is encapsulated in the reflective ‘Send My Love To The System’, the second in the early protest Dylan feel of ‘Concept of Freedom’ (which borrows the tune from either ‘The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll’ or ‘Working Class Hero’ depending on your allegiances) and all three wrapped up with ‘Anyone Out There?’, a tongue-in-cheek but pointed call to alien life forms (from whence the title comes) to rescue us from drifting through space and destroying the planet.

A metaphorical sci-fi element also informs ‘The Man Who Fell To Earth’, a spare, piano-backed picture of the dark cold universe in which we live inspired by the story of Jose Matata, an African immigrant who, in 2013, was killed when he fell from the landing gear of a British Airways plane on to a London pavement in his attempt to gain entry into the UK.

Elsewhere, the mazurka-like album opener, ‘As For My Soul’, is a struggling musician’s call to make the most of life (“light a fire, drink a beer, sing a song”) while we still have it, while ‘From Halcyon’ and ‘Seize The Night’ are both nostalgic laments for times gone and friends lost, the latter addressing a recurring theme of both loneliness and restlessness (one track’s tellingly titled ‘The Endlessness and the Space Between’) as he sings “if you know where you are when you wake up, something’s wrong”.

He’s a deft storyteller as well as a keen observer, a fact underlined by the bluesy ‘Outside Over There’, a dark fairytale about a young girl’s quest into the forest to recover her abducted baby sister set against a conflation of wars and conflicts. By contrast, the rather more playful Dylanesque ‘Talking Cat Blues’ shows his surreal side as he weaves together being dumped, personal injury cold calls, Kanye West (who gets referenced twice on the album), David Cameron and YouTube cat videos, throwing in the groaning pun “no win, no felines”.

Ending with another reflective time passing, growing older number in the minimal ‘The Question of Passing Time’, its combination of spirited defiance and wearied resignation is at once fuelled by the fire of make a difference youth and the exhaustion of disillusioned middle-age, somewhat setting it apart from his contemporaries in the genre and, as such, making it far more thoughtful and affecting listening.

Mike Davies

If you would like to order a copy of the album, download it or just listen to snippets of selected tracks (track previews are usually on the download page) then click on the banner link below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website.

Artist’s website: http://www.willvarley.com/

‘The Concept Of Freedom’ – live in session: