In Modern History by Jim Moray

Jim Moray’s fourth album In Modern History (on the NIAG label), is the most enjoyable non-Okinawan album I’ve listened to this year. Moray is another of those English musicians fascinated by local songs and roots music. His three previous albums were rightly acclaimed, though he also received criticism from a few people (who ought to know better) for his wilder experiments and the liberties he took with the old songs. Moray uses a laptop like an instrument and combines his own compositions with new arrangements and rewritings of traditional songs. His third album Low Culture, released two years ago, is a great example of what he does, but In Modern History probably surpasses even that.

 ‘Bristol Harbour’, which opens the album, builds gradually into an almost grunge guitar experience. On ‘Jenny of the Moor’, which follows, Moray is joined by Hannah Peel on vocals, and there are also vocals on two other songs by Moray’s sister Jackie Oates – herself a formidable young talent. Eliza Carthy plays violin on one song, and the musicians of Opera North appear on this and also on two other tracks. Meanwhile ‘Spencer the Writer’ is a spoken reworking of an old folk theme. There is plenty of drumming on much of the album, mostly provided by Moray himself who also plays bass, guitars, mandolin, banjo, piano, synthesizers, hurdy gurdy and cittern.

 Despite the disparate elements it all hangs together very well and is probably more accessible than anything he’s done up to now. Already an accomplished multi-instrumentalist and producer as well – the nearest equivalent in Okinawa might be Toru Yonaha – Jim Moray’s plaintive voice tells these stories in his own style. It’s way beyond folk-rock, in fact beyond categorization really, and it’s excellent.

 Jim Moray’s website is at www.jimmoray.co.uk

A video interview with Jim Moray in which he talks about the making of his albums can be seen at the Bright Young Folk website which also has information and interviews with many other folk musicians from the British Isles. www.brightyoungfolk.com

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