With little fanfare (although a friendly welcome from the club compare), Jim Moray took to the Twickfolk stage at The Cabbage Patch Pub in South West London. At the time of this gig Jim’s latest album, Upcetera, had been out for just over a week.
To say it has had very good reviews is something of an understatement – five stars from fRoots, R2 and Mojo Magazine. Folk Radio UK’s own Thomas Blake was similarly complimentary in his review (Jim was Artist of the Month for October), impressed that 15-years into his career, Jim ‘…seems to be hitting his peak while never doing the same thing twice.’
What’s great (but may be galling if you are an artist struggling to make ends meet) about the UK folk scene is the proximity you get to some of this country’s greatest talents. Jim hopped on the stage, gave a brief welcome the picked up his guitar and played as if he was a friend from up the road who’d popped in to play us a few of his latest songs.
After a couple of picks from his back catalogue – The Wife of Usher’s Well from last year’s False Lights band album, and Jenny from the Moor from 2010’s In Modern History – he launched into the first Upcetera song, William of Barbary. As revealed in Jim’s Folk Radio UK interview, he sees this latest album as a ‘new chapter’.
Again, with little fanfare, Jim played his adaptation of the traditional ballad more familiarly known as Willie o’ Winsbury. But it is clear from Jim’s delivery that this is the start of something very special. Since that Sunday night in Twickenham, Upcetera has been a constant companion and source of inspiration to me. Listening to the album alongside Jim’s (universally fascinating) earlier works, it is apparent how much he has matured as a singer in particular.
Thanks to the strings and full arrangements, Upcetera could be superficially considered good ‘background music.’ Yes, it’s gorgeous to listen to, but at its heart is an emotional core that can quite literally move you to tears. It’s an astonishingly open-hearted set of songs.
As mentioned, this is a solo gig, so it’s a far cry from the album which features 16 guest musicians, as well as the artist himself playing multiple instruments. But, stripped of all that, these new songs still pack an emotional punch.
Jim takes to the stage after the interval to give an unaccompanied reading of Another Man’s Wedding. And it’s astonishing; you can see and feel the vulnerability and sense of loss that Jim conveys in the song – raw and profoundly moving.
More picks from Upcetera form further highlights from the set, a piano-driven Foggy Dew and a gorgeous new Moray composition that is set to become a standard, Sounds of Earth. That’s not to say it isn’t a treat to hear solo performances of past highlights, including a resurrected Nightvisiting – which Jim was encouraged to revisit after it inspired the title of an episode of the new Doctor Who spin-off, Class.
So, it was an absolute treat to hear songs old and particularly the new in such stripped-down arrangements. But now I have, I’d love to see a Jim Moray band performance with a fuller sound more akin to the album. That’s if I can take the emotional intensity…
Twickfolk is a friendly club, and I’d highly recommend a visit if you are in the area. As for Jim, I’m sure you don’t need my endorsement to persuade you to see him when he tours in November. He’s just produced ‘a landmark album of our time, ’ and I think that should be encouragement enough.
Upcetara is Out Now via NIAG records
Listen to the full album on Spotify:
Jim Moray Tour Dates
4th THE LIBERAL CLUB, ORPINGTON
5th WINEMAKERS CLUB, LONDON
6th VICTORIA HALL, SETTLE
9th THE MUSICIAN, LEICESTER
11th ST MARY’S CREATIVE SPACE, CHESTER
18th EXETER FOLK AND ACOUSTIC CLUB, EXETER
19th EVERYMAN THEATRE, CHELTENHAM
20th HITCHIN FOLK CLUB, HITCHIN
25th NORWICH FOLK CLUB, NORWICH
9th SHELLEY THEATRE, BOURNEMOUTH