Four albums in, songs veined with social and political protest are what’s come to be expected from Deal-based singer-songwriter Will Varley. Kingsdown Sundown is his follow-up up to his breakthrough Postcards From Ursa Minor and contains some of the most potent songs of his career to date. Kicking the album off is To Build A Wall, a simple strummed, plaintively sung number that might sound a timely note in regards to Trump’s plans to isolate Mexico. On a wider scale, it speaks of how we tend to put up barriers “out of fear, out of lies… out of faith and cannonball,” to hide problems rather than seeking to solve them, to shut out rather than come together.
There’s an even darker tone to the acoustic brooding strum of Something Is Breaking, Varley’s husky warble conjuring early Dylan on a song that sounds warning notes of an impending apocalypse as the world becomes increasingly divided, and wounds of hatred split open all over its skin.
With its sparse resonator guitar fingerpicking, When She Wakes Up is more classically blues folk in its dark murder ballad like visions of ‘pools of blood on the pavement .. dripping through the cracks back into the soil” and an imploding society “these fires will keep on burning and nothing we make will last” while February Snow spins an account of a winter funeral soaked in a melancholic air of sadness and memories, a contrast to the brief burst of positivity that follows with Let Your Guard Down’s call to open your heart to love and let others in.
If that feels intimate and personal, We Want Our Planet Back is a decidedly more universal protest song that addresses a list that numbers war, corporate greed, deforestation and global warming in an anthemic chorus call to reclaim the world on which we live. I don’t think it quite pulls off what it intends and could probably have done with a big build finale with backing vocals. Rather more effective, with a melody that’s reminiscent of Bob Dylan’s “To Ramona,” is the weary, quietly strummed “Too Late Too Soon” with its reflections on love and loss.
Matters of the heart take flight too on the equally Dylanesque and emotionally plaintive Wild Bird before the final stretch commences with the swaying tones of Back to Hell, a number that conjures thoughts of Cohen’s Dance Me To The End of Love in its musical gypsy colours. It’s time to gather round the dusk campfire for One Last look At The View”, a sleepy waltzing reminiscence of mortality and things lost in the fire and a hope that there might yet be one last glimpse of the rising dawn, “one more day with you”, before the light’s finally turned off.
The album ends with a note of optimism and defiance in the face of the unknown, the title of the brief simple acoustic picked We’ll Keep Making Plans pretty much saying everything. Varley says he’s been wanting to make a record like this for a long time. He couldn’t have picked a better moment.
Kingsdown Sundown is out now via Xtra Mile Recordings
Will Varley is touring his album this month with support from Cocos Lovers in the UK and Molly’s Lips in Ireland.
WILL VARLEY NOVEMBER TOUR
8th GLASGOW // King Tuts
9th MANCHESTER // Gorilla
10th NEWCASTLE // The Cluny
11th NOTTINGHAM // Rescue Rooms
15th PORTSMOUTH // Wedgwood Rooms
16th BRISTOL // Thekla
17th BRIGHTON // Komedia
18th LONDON // Union Chapel – SOLD OUT
23rd GALWAY // Róisín Dubh
24th DUBLIN // Whelan’s
25th BELFAST // The Sunflower
26th CORK // Cyprus Avenue