Usually when a band is branded ‘DIY’ you can expect perhaps a little freedom from record label executives, liberty to write what music they want and perhaps start their own label. But that is probably it. Will Varley is the epitome of DIY…and so much more.
Phrases such as self-starter and go-getter really do not do justice to just how much Varley has made his success. Moving from the hustle and bustle of London city life to the serene retreats of the coast, his first tour following the release of debut album Advert Soundtracks was a harder trek than most bands will experience in a lifetime. Walking all over the south with a guitar and a tent and playing wherever he could, he is the essence of a true travelling blues troubadour. He self-directs his music videos, records his music in the smuggling tunnels deep beneath Kent coastline on a DIY record label he helps to run, and has in the last year published his first novel. It’s quite a story, and anyone questioning his authenticity will be soundly put-down.
So here then is his second album, As The Crow Flies, a mature record based on experience and strife. The record kicks off with Where The Wild Wind Blows, which oozes romance with its gently plucked guitar lines and whimsical lyrical quality. The title track is described by the man himself as ‘brutally honest’, and there is really no better way to sum up such a breath-taking tune or indeed the whole album itself. But it’s not all melancholy and wistful. The thumping Blood And Bone has a groove all of its own, and the satirical poetical spits of I Got This E-Mail, is a laugh out loud tale of an ignorant but lovable young man who looks for work and finds a group of friends (including a Gameboy playing Nick Clegg who struggles to see past level 5 of Tetris). As lyrical content goes you can’t argue its originality.
Will Varley is the latest in a growing trend of raspy-voiced young folk singers but unlike others in that genre he harks back to a time when it was all about the music. Like delta bluesmen playing bottleneck guitar by the railway lines in America’s Deep South, or travelling journeymen telling their tales in smoky, candlelit taverns. There is a romance to Will Varley and his music that is totally his own, thoroughly engaging and as authentic as his honey-soaked voice. Like Nick Drake or Tom Waits, his poetry is so lively and charming that you can’t help but want to be a part of his world. If you listen to only one album this year, make sure it is As The Crow Flies.