Nicky Murray made a bit of a splash when he released his debut album on Martin Stephenson’s label back in 2014 before going on to be one of the standout acts at the following year’s Wickerman Festival. A singer/songwriter who reminds one of the glory days of singer/songwriting he leans towards the more bucolic and experimental end of the spectrum. Murray is blessed with a tremendous voice in addition to his writing skills and when he was staying in Glasgow a few years back he used to turn up at open mic nights and you could guarantee that there would be gasps from the audience as soon as he started to sing.
Now living in Inverness where he has become a driving force on the local music scene while also attending university, Murray has been quiet on the recording front of late with only one single released in the past few years. Now he unveils this excellent mini album of five songs which more than match the anticipation which has built up over those years. Wintermore is a much more assured recording than the debut album Plenty More Weeping and it features some adventurous string arrangements. Aside from his regular recording partner Chloe Rogers on fiddle the disc features Chloe Bryce, again on fiddle, with Patsy Reid on cello and Rachel Sermanni & Emma Gillespie on harmony vocals.
It’s difficult to define the music here and the album will probably sit in the folk bins in record shops although that does it a grand disservice as Murray treads a similar path as the likes of Kathryn Joseph, The Unthanks and Robert Wyatt. The disc opens with the relatively straightforward 1983 which meanders wonderfully for almost six minutes with Murray’s hushed voice complemented by some excellent harmony singing while his sensitive and accomplished guitar playing is fleshed out by the cello and fiddles. As the song swims its way along one is reminded of Roy Harper’s more sensitive moments. Before You which follows is in very much the same vein although here Murray’s guitar playing is simply excellent and again the strings give the song a wonderful sense of depth. Although one might be accused of hyperbole, we’d say that this is one of the most beautiful song’s we’ve heard all year, its dappled wonder quite heartbreaking at times. It’s simply glorious.
With just voices and strings the 50 second long It’s All Here separates the pastoral opening songs from the more adventurous closing acts. World Will Sea finds the strings setting the scene as they waver from sonic squeaks to pizzicato waltz time interludes as Murray is cast adrift with just his sublime voice and guitar to keep him afloat. The closing Wintermore opens with forlorn piano and weeping strings sounding for all the world as if they were recorded in an underwater saloon. Another lengthy number much of it comprises of that piano being pecked at as the strings hover and then dip like harpies snatching at food. It’s a desolate song with Murray invoking the notion that winter is a time of contemplation as he sounds like a man in the wilderness with only memories sustaining him.
A glorious return to recording, Winterlong is Murray at his best and it deserves to be heard far and wide.
You can buy Wintermore here