26 year old Will Varley is an author, artist and performer full of piss and vinegar, occupied with the Occupy movement and involved in the DIY ethos of his label Smugglers Records. To promote his first album he didn’t play the usual circuit, instead he embarked on a 140 mile walking tour playing to anyone who wanted to listen.
As The Crow Flies is his second release and showcases his strong vocals, guitar dexterity and his fine song writing skills. Varley works in the folk tradition and he proves he can deliver in the traditional fashion with the powerful and chilling tale of a Shaman’s deception on Blood and Bone which could have graced the likes of Traffic’s John barleycorn album or any one of Fairport Conventions latter efforts. For the most part however he reflects the sixties singer/songwriter revolution and he succeeds spectacularly well in this with some songs that are wonderfully crafted. Where The Wild Wind Blows opens with a description of a bucolic Eden the singer has to leave for an uncertain future. Similar to the early poetry of Dylan with a nod to Roy Harper it’s a fine curtain raiser. Weddings and Wars continues down the same road as Varley sums up Man’s achievements over the ages and finds them for the most part destructive and deadly. His voice spits vitriol here and again one is reminded of the angry young Harper when he sang songs such as I Hate The White Man. Soldiers on The Wall is an apocalyptic vision of the future which envisions states from Morocco to New York policed by the titular guards. Delivered in a hazy fashion we’re unsure if this is a dream or a vision but it’s a powerful message.
There are several songs which sound more personal although political nuances are never far away. The title song is a wonderful piece of nostalgia as Varley recollects images and instances from his youth as he goes back home while She’s Been Drinking is the sorry tale of a promising life going down the drain due to addiction. His lyrics are evocative and engaging with some excellent imagery throughout while the accompaniment from fellow Beggars Records artists Cocos Lovers cocoons the songs with a delicate touch.
Finally we must mention two songs that offer some levity to offset the gloom that pervades the album ( although we must say that gloom is good). Both are in the vein of Dylan’s humoresque talkin’ blues with I Got This E-Mail a genuinely funny tall story where the protagonist is sucked into a Nigerian scam, eventually marches on Whitehall only to find that David Cameron has fallen for the same scam. The scabrous Self Checkout Shuffle will appeal to all who use these automated supermarket guardians and anyone who fantasises about supermarket romances.