Will Varley “Through The Lowlands”

Independent, 2023

Thoughtful, poetic lyrics with a quality laid-back groove.

Cover artwork for Will Varley album Through The LowlandsWill Varley started out busking on the underground and playing open mic slots in South London venues. He has six albums and a live EP to his name in addition to this live album, which mainly showcases his back catalogue but has a couple of tracks not previously available added; ‘Something Eating Away At Us’ and the excellent ‘Lowlands Away’ with its Irish folk feel. Over the years he has done a lot of touring, either headlining or supporting acts such as Billy Bragg, Frank Turner and The Proclaimers.

The album was recorded live in his native Kent at The Lighthouse music venue in Deal, a venue owned by the Hatton brothers who are the rhythm section on the album. Also playing are Duncan McKay on muted trumpet, Tom Farrer on keyboards and Dave Kirk on pedal steel. McKay has previously played with Primal Scream and Richard Ashcroft. It is a great tribute to these musicians that, although there was little rehearsal, the music on the album sounds as good as if it had been recorded in a studio. It would be hard to tell it was live were it not for the appreciative cheers at the start and end of each track from the sold-out crowd.

Folk Radio UK describes Varley’s work as “Channelling Dylan at his most poetic, metaphoric and meditative” and it is fair to say that the album reminds you of Dylan, with Varley’s vocals sounding a bit like Dylan and the lyrics having a Dylanesque feel to them. However, the music, often having a laid-back groove and beat from drums and bass and a jazzy feel from McKay’s trumpet, isn’t a carbon copy of Dylan’s; it is, dare it be said, easier listening than some of his work. Varley’s vocals are to the forefront, with lead guitar, pedal steel and piano filling in very nicely in the background.

The lyrics often deal with past loves with some almost feeling like a letter to the lover. On ‘I Still Think Of You Sometimes’ Varley writes:

“From Dublin town to Hoxton square, from Brooklyn to Canterbury,
I tried to shake you from my mind, but you won’t stop haunting me,
Cause you keep creeping up behind my thoughts, always in the dead of night,
Then you disappear into the sunset, just as it’s getting light”

The poetic nature of the lyrics makes them more interesting and thought-provoking than many, although the downside to this is that at times the meaning is less clear than for more straightforward words. Some have been described as “musings” and it is true that these have a stream-of-consciousness feel, with others being slightly surreal:

“Well he went to kiss her, when he touched her heart
She seemed to shatter like a pane of glass
And from her mouth came a swarm of flies
And ten thousand soldiers came marching by”

Listening to this album, you can see why Varley has built up a band of dedicated supporters over the years. Hopefully, this album will bring him even more attention and success.


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