Posted: 01 Oct 2012
Jim Moray, Famous Flower Folk Club Whitby
Although Jim Moray has been around for the best part of 10 years I have to confess I only discovered him by accident when I caught him at a tribute to Seventies folk legend Nic Jones at Cecil Sharp House in London on September 22.
They say the best things are worth waiting for and he was simply outstanding - indelible proof that the Jones legacy of original craftsmanship in the English folk tradition lives on.
He performed a handful of moving ballads and had a hard-core crowd of 500 folk cognoscenti eating out of the palm of his hand. Fast forward one week and he played an intimate gig at Eliza Carthy’s quirky Famous Flower Folk Club in the basement of La Rosa Hotel in Whitby.
In his earlier live performances critics were quick to applaud his willingness to experiment with video projections and lighting effects uncommon in British folk music. His 2008 album Low Culture – which was nominated for 2009 Album of the Year at the BBC Folk Awards – saw him dubbed ‘experimental but erratic.’
His latest album Skulk demonstrates just how far he has come. As well as being a gifted writer he has matured into a fine performer. And I think he is at his best when it is stripped down to just him and his guitar.
Like Jones he favours open guitar tunings and has the rare ability to take traditional material and fashion it into a creation greater than the sum of its parts – giving his pieces a timeless quality. It takes a lot of skill to rebuild a song seamlessly and sympathetically.
Jim aired tracks from earlier albums – including Sweet England – and his new album, including the Captain’s Apprentice and the standout beguiling masterpiece Lord Douglas, a heart-rending tragic tale of star-crossed lovers.
He also has a wry sense of humour and revels in the bizarre idiosyncracies and absurdness of the folk tradition when describing his difficulty with the concept of Tam Lin – a song about a ‘woodland elf rapist.’
While his composition Adam Ant Alone in his Padded Cell – which favours obligatory audience participation, as is the folk way – illustrates that his influences are not strictly confined to Vaughan Williams and the ballads of Francis J Child.
The multi instrumentalist is equally happy at the piano or with guitar in hand – indeed Skulk features a frenzied fingerpicking banjo rendition of Lindsey Buckingham’s Big Love from Fleetwood Mac’s Tango in the Night.
If you get a chance to catch him live, go and see him. He even gave me a private guitar tutorial on the intro riff to Lord Douglas. That’s service for you.