Will Varley is still a relatively little-known name, but as momentum gently swells his proverbial sails, we can but hope that his reputation grows. Having supported The Proclaimers on tour and hit the festival scene heavily during 2016, Varley has garnered the support of Xtra Mile Recordings to make a particularly English record of folk song driven by his simple, finger picked guitar, hushed, throaty vocals and subtle, introspective studies of the human condition – ah, what it is to be a chap in the dreary grey of a British winter; a sorrowful soul in these uncertain times.
Songs like the unnervingly honest “Wild Bird” and “One Last Look At The View”, an arresting vignette about a man’s last moments (spent at a Premier Inn on the M25 no less), might not fill you with confidence that all this world has to offer will come good, but there is a certain something about Varley’s gentle, acoustic mastery that is beyond captivating. Void of glitz, glamour and pretence afforded to many songwriters’ music, Varley’s outlook is dreadfully bleak, but all the more alluring for it’s Cohen-esque grit and, inevitable Nick Drake comparisons aside, his is a distinctive trajectory that will be pleasing to those wanting to recapture what made ‘Five Leaves Left’ and ‘It Don’t Bother Me’ fantastic records. At times there’s the odd miss-fire, not least the irritating lilt and peculiar phasing effects added to “Back to Hell”, but on the whole, this is a solid album by a songwriter that is proving that swimming against the tide of fashion is sometimes a noble cause.
Do yourself a favour, don’t cheer yourself up with Shakin’ Steven’s new album this Christmas, buy this instead.
Will Varley heads out on tour this winter. Find out more at www.willvarley.com