JIM MORAY – folking live concert review…

JIM MORAY, Black Peak: 
Folking Live at Wilde Theatre, South Hill Park, Bracknell – October 24th 2012.

Reviewed by Colin Bailey.

It was the first time a Folking Live event had taken place in the august surroundings of the Wilde Theatre at South Hill Park, and expectations were high. We even applauded promoter Phil Daniels as he came on stage to introduce the evening. For this auspicious occasion the support act were the planned Cellar Bar headliners for January 2013, Black Peak. Darren Black and Deborah Peake, masterfully accompanied by Chris Gatland on bass and percussion, played a fair number of the tracks from their first full-length CD In Times Back When, and were well received. Darren’s delicately modulated vocals and accomplished guitar work along with Deborah’s strong yet restrained fiddle playing perfectly suited their pastorally tinged songs of social conscience.

Jim Moray is a walking folk encyclopedia and gave us fulsome background information to each carefully chosen song he played. After opening with the plaintive “night visiting song” ‘Three Black Feathers’, he moved into the only “happy ever after song” he claimed to know, ‘Jenny Of The Moor’. ‘Hind Etin’ from this year’s acclaimed Skulk was the first Child Ballad of the night, and ‘The Captain’s Apprentice’ from the same album took us even further along the path of morose though brilliantly executed songs. While he remained at the piano, the mood was somewhat lifted through a shift from older trad material to the lyrically more contemporary ‘Poverty Knock’. A slightly up-tempo rendition of his Skulk version of ‘Horkstow Grange’ was delivered complete with synthesised 4 part harmony (à la Percy Grainger wax cylinder recording).

Introduced as a happy song from his home county of Staffordshire, ‘The Golden Glove’ was performed on bouzar (or was it a gazouki?) One curiosity was an early song of his own, ‘Adam Ant Alone In His Padded Cell’, played as a country song as he thought that’s how Adam would like it! Given the sad news that Dundonian singer-songwriter Michael Marra had died the day previously, we listened with mixed emotions to Marra’s noted anti-war song ‘Happed In Mist’. Showcasing his voice to excellent effect, the high spot of the evening was ‘If It’s True’ from Anaïs Mitchell’s Hadestown folk opera (in which Jim had played the part of Orpheus). ‘Lord Douglas’ was another vocal highlight, featuring lovely accompaniment. As we moved towards the end, Jim engaged the crowd to join in with the chorus of Bruce Molsky’s ‘Peg And Awl’. The last song of the set, sung for his hero Nic Jones, was ‘Billy Don’t You Weep For Me’ and was a tour-de-force. We ended the evening altogether on a light note with the song he’d written for his sister, Jackie Oates, ‘Wishfulness Waltz’. Not only a leading innovator in today’s folk world, this was an accomplished performer, still scaling the peaks. The evening was a fine showcase for the potential of high-quality events of this genre on the Wilde Theatre stage.

“One of the great album releases of 2012!” folking.com

Artist Web link: http://jimmoray.co.uk/

Jim Moray – Skulk

It’s some time ago now that Sweet England thundered on to the UK folk scene, momentum like an express train on a collision course to alter the very foundation of the tradition. Since then, Moray has continued to experiment, with some staggering results – however this album is from start to finish his most consistent, his most accomplished.

The record kicks off on what could be considered familiar territory, with a superb take on ‘The Captains Apprentice’. It is a sign of things to come as the album set is made up of mostly traditional numbers given the Moray treatment. Further standouts include a stark Acapella version of the Percy Grainger collected ‘Horkstow Grange’ – which really shows off Moray’s vocal ability, and the 7+ minute ‘Lord Douglas’, which not only has Jim’s fine musicianship skills in evidence, but also brings in some of his outstanding contemporaries including sister Jackie Oates on vocals and Accordion maestro Andy Cutting.

The most interesting of all the tracks for me however is not one of the traditional numbers – but a version of Lindsay Buckingham’s ‘Big Love’. The track – famous for Buckingham’s outstanding acoustic guitar rendition is on this record brilliantly played by Jim on Banjo. It instantly changes the track in to a folk song – a simple yet completely original piece of arranging.

This album should serve Jim Moray very well – now close to being a decade in to his recording career. I would expect award nominations aplenty for many of the tracks on here, and as always with this artist, the excitement is already brewing as to what he’ll do next.

Phil Daniels

Artist Web link: http://jimmoray.co.uk/

“Already, one of the great album releases of 2012!” folking.com

JIM MORAY – Skulk (NIBL013)

Perhaps its Moray’s numerous tales of brushes with death on previous recordings that inspired him to use the collective noun for foxes ‘Skulk’ as the title of his latest CD. Or maybe you’ve just seen the series “Whitechapel” on TV? Whatever the reason, his opening choice of song “The Captain’s Apprentice” is a brooding piece of work that would settle comfortably alongside any recording by June Tabor and I certainly applaud the unsettling choice of piano chords on a stark background of saxophone used for its texture rather than as a melody. This really is an unpretentious, Gothic piece of dramatic theatre that wouldn’t sound out of place as the soundtrack to a David Lynch or David Cronenberg movie and will doubtless send shivers down the spine of anyone who purports to have a soul. For this track alone I’d personally give the album a ten but than that would be to dismiss this young man’s ability to turn his hand to more or less any genre of music he cares to utilise for his excursions. He makes no bones that the ‘traditional’ emphasis of his outpourings is his main preference of ingredient but in using a heady mixture of jazz, rock and classical the scatter-gun approach will hopefully expand the confines an audience made-up of primarily ‘folk’ music enthusiasts. This album may not be to everyone’s taste; perhaps a little too maudlin for most but I urge you to think again because any ‘craftsman’ that can make you go straight to your computer to check out the original version of Anais Mitchell’s (www.youtube.com/watch?v=0IOeGyD4zUA) “If It’s True” has done his job superbly well. I’d finally like to credit the tremendous sleeve photos of Sorrel The Fox (held with loving care by Moray) taken by the ever imaginative David Angel. If you’re an animal lover or just love good music you’ll love this recording.

PETE FYFE

Artist Web link: http://jimmoray.co.uk/

“Already, one of the great album releases of 2012!” folking.com