Xtra Mile Recordings
Raw and Intelligent 21st Century Folk Songs.
While this is Will Varley’s fourth album in five years, it’s his first for Xtra Mile Recordings and shows a sharper, edgier sensitivity to his finely crafted songs.
Some very judicial programming places To Build a Wall as the opening track. The first couple of times I heard it I resumed it was a metaphorical description of a crumbling relationship; and it may well be…..but in the light of last week’s staggering USA Presidential Election results; the song could easily be about Donald J Trumpet’s proposed Wall that will separate America from Mexico; but Varley’s clever way with words means the song can also be about the way the world is dissolving around our ears by the minute……or, it just may be a ‘broken love song’ as I first thought.
Track #2 Something is Breaking really is a political Folk song, with Varley’s voice virtually a croak as sings about ‘cowards that hide behind a digital mask’ as ‘children die in the water’ as well as taking pot shots at ‘corrupt politicians.’ He paints a very bleak picture, but by the careful use of prose manages to create a beautifully fragile song.
Recorded in the basement of a pub in Deal, Kent Will Varley writes and sings dangerous songs, dangerous as they make the listener ‘think about what is going on around them’ and there’s not enough music around today that does that.
We Want Our Planet Back is a darkly tongue in cheek poke in the ribs for the people who read and believe the populist newspapers and then without thinking about the consequences voted to leave the EU here in the UK, and more recently voted in a new President in the USA on the back of over simplistic slogans rather than studying the socio-economic implications both events will/may have. Hence the simplistic chorus ‘We Want Our Planet Back’ sung in a flat muscular manner.
Varley’s sandpapered larynx comes into its own as he paints pictures with words on the timeless Back To Hell. A song that could easily have been on any of the British bedsit singer-songwriter LP’s that I immersed myself in between 1969 and 72 and if I had a time machine Will Varley would be found singing this song on the OGWT with Whispering Bob nodding and looking enigmatic in the corner.
While I’m in that mood, When She Wakes Up and Wild Bird are the type of enigmatic love songs that John Peel loved before he discovered Punk.
There aren’t many laughs here; but that is the point, some of us need music that makes our brain work; which brings me to my favourite song here, One Last Look at The View which while dealing with loneliness and imminent death, there are some lines that will make you smile ruefully.
Kingsdown, Sundown close with the merest hint of optimism. We’ll Keep Making Plans certainly isn’t a gung-ho approach to life, more a nod at the human condition which sees us all through the terrible things that life hurls at us.
Perhaps it’s the mood I’m in at the moment, but I’ve loved this extraordinary album from start to finish…….thank goodness for songwriters like Will Varley who have the courage to write and sing from the heart, regardless of the commercial consequences.
Released November 4th 2016