November 21st - Jim Moray
13 years ago Jim Moray released
an album that changed the way people perceived, played and presented English
folk music. Sweet England arrived at a time when, with just a few notable
exceptions, traditional music was performed much as it had been in the 1970s
to an audience of insiders and aficionados. The album was received with
open arms by those who understood that the music of the people has survived
for centuries by being just that – an expression of the times. Absent
were the familiar affectations of those who sought to preserve an invented
historical aesthetic, Jim Moray was a Bowie and Blur fan singing ballads
with all of his influences unfurled.
The records that followed
(Jim Moray, Low Culture, In Modern History, Skulk) embraced everything from
electronica to Johnny Marr-esque guitar rock via symphonic pop, an award
winning XTC cover and grime. But at their heart has always been Jim’s
unmistakeable soulful and yearning voice; singing old songs in a new way.
As awards and rave reviews
stacked up, much was made of Moray’s fearlessness in pushing the boundaries
of traditional music. But it’s an accolade he’s always refuted.
“I don’t see any boundaries,” being his oft-repeated response.
“This is popular music and I love popular music.”
Festival and folk club crowds
clearly felt the same way, never more so than in 2014 when Jim joined up
with the ardently admired songwriter and guitarist Sam Carter to form the
band False Lights. On a mission to make a glorious folk rock ruckus that
owed more to Radiohead and Queens Of The Stone Age than Steeleye Span, False
Lights quickly became one of the most in demand groups on the circuit. They
also picked up a Best Album nomination in the 2016 BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards
for their debut LP Salvor.
In recent years Jim has
collaborated with such folk music luminaries as Andy Cutting, Patsy Reid,
Martin Simpson and Nancy Kerr on the hugely successful Cecil Sharp Project
and similarly acclaimed Elizabethan Project. He’s also been making
a name for himself as a producer working with Maz O’Connor on her
last album This Willowed Light and her most recent release The Longing Kind,
as well as mixing the latest record by Jamie Smith’s Mabon. And this
year he presented a documentary on BBC Radio 3 about the traditional song
Brigg Fair, which saw Jim use cutting-edge sound technology to recreate
the apocryphal moment when farm bailiff Joseph Taylor spontaneously added
his voice to the premiere of Delius’ An English Rhapsody, which was
inspired by a wax cylinder recording of Taylor’s singing. A more appropriate
subject for Moray to tackle is hard to imagine.
At a time when the bright
new lights of traditional music include Stick In The Wheel and Lynched,
who come from the distinctly un-folk worlds of drum ‘n’ bass
and punk respectively, Jim Moray’s dream that more people would discover
and play these songs on their own terms in their own voice is steadily becoming
As for the future, Jim believes
it’s time for him to start a new chapter. He’s described the
making of his forthcoming album Upcetera as being like “learning to
do it all again from scratch”. Drawing influence from the systems
music of composers like Nyman and Reich (another of his formative passions)
Upcetera features dramatically orchestrated Child ballads reimagined as
torch songs or a kind of English Fado. It’s an album that places the
narrative element of these songs centre stage, with Jim Moray’s supple
soaring vocal leading the listener by the hand through strange old stories.
Making them new.