It is odd bracketing a singer /songwriter/ producer who has put out tracks for more than a decade as nu-folk but that is what sprang to mind listening to Jim Moray at Wolverhampton’s Newhampton Arts Centre on Saturday.
Perhaps it was the contrast with the support by the excellent, but more time-travelled John Richards that did it.
Jim, born in Macclesfield and brought up in Brocton, near Stafford, also seems to be part of a batch of classically-trained young musicians turned out by Birmingham Conservatoire – a bit like a musical equivalent of Dario Gradi’s youthful football conveyor belt at Crewe.
He and others, such as The Old Dance School, have got stuck into the folk scene with a vengeance – and top class results.
Jim has been clocking up awards over the years – the most recent being the one for his version of Lord Douglas at the BBC Folk Awards – but I had been warned his live performance could be a bit hit or miss.
This time it was very much hit with superb vocals and excellent instrumental work leading us through a ghost story and the ‘broken token’ song Seven Long Years with meticulous sourcing of where they came from.
Guitar work was great and when he addressed the keyboard he almost morphed into a lounge singer.
He showed he was a lot more than this singing without an instrument and with the delivery and explanation of Lord Douglas.
Jim bases it on versions of Child Ballad no.7 (Roud 23) with a new tune and words drawing in some influences from the Danish variation ‘Hildebrand and Hilde’ and the Norse version.
Interesting crossover from the Scandinavian here – a bit like Kathryn Roberts’ Hidden People.
Horkstow Grange is basically a punch-up on a farm involving a tyrant of a farmer’s foreman and a waggoner – old Steeleye Span (hence the name of the group).
During his set Jim did say he had one cheerful number but I’ve forgotten which one it was – they were all quality though.
The evening at the arts centre folk club in Whitmore Reans, Wolverhampton, came two weeks before the Folk 21 event at the same venue.
This is a continuing exploration of how grass roots small venues can develop new audiences and get people into intimate settings to see artists away from the big arenas and large festival settings.
It formed in 2011 after John Richards wrote a blog on The Demon Barbers website.
Now it encourages and assists small venues (folk clubs, village halls, arts centres, music cafes etc) which book guests and present small scale concerts.
It is led by a committee of organisers, artists, agents and audience members working together to helpe sustain and strengthen the artis-booking folk scene in the UK, now and for the future – says its website at http://www.folk21.net/
On Saturday May 11 at the West Midlands event there will be a full afternoon of discussion followed by an evening showcase of acts from other areas who want to work in the West Midlands.
Jez Lowe will headline the concert. Admission for all delegates from clubs, venues, magazines and organizations is free to the daytime events for up to 4 delegates per organization.
Folk 21 says: “The purpose of the day is to fully understand the challenges faced and explore how the movers and shakers of the local folk scene can maximize co-operation and share ideas and initiatives.”
Kelly Alcock, one of the Folk 21 team says the showcase lineup will be released shortly.