Will Varley – Spirit of Minnie

Album Review | Xtra Mile Recordings | Review by Steve Henderson | Stars: 4/5

If you look back at musical history, it’s part of the folklore that many singer songwriters have started off in the bedroom.  Before your mind goes elsewhere, think of the likes of Paul Simon or Ed Sheeran who probably crafted new songs in the privacy of their own room before launching them on public ears.  With some interest in their songs garnered from those that matter, the next step is often that decision as to whether to go for the fleshier sound of a band.  With Spirit of Minnie, that’s exactly where Will Varley finds himself.  Having been feted and supported by such as Billy Bragg, Frank Turner, The Proclaimers; the headline gigs are now coming and his new record shifts away from previous recordings which were mainly in ‘man with acoustic guitar’ territory.  Its immediate predecessor, Kingsdown Sundown, turned its guns on uncaring politicians in a piercing way and other records have shown Varley to be a reflective dreamer reaching out with his lyrics to those of like mind.  So, where does that leave his new record?  Ditched are the humorous elements of previous songs such as “Talking Cat Blues”.  In come musical hooks like the refrain on “All Those Stars” which will appeal to those who like to sing along.  Aided and abetted by that full band sound (bass, drums, etc), it’s more of a foot tapping and shuffling record than its predecessors – you’ll find it difficult to stop yourself with tracks like “Seven Days”.  That’s not to say he’s disappeared into a sugary sweet pop mix as we hear on The Postman which builds slowly into its musical crescendo. It’s an approach to arranging songs that he returns to on the closing track, “Insect”.  However, keeping in touch with previous records, the acoustic guitar remains to the fore with tracks like “Statues” and “Breaking the Bread”.  As various as the song titles suggest, lyrically, he’s become even less direct than before and leaves the listener to paint their own picture on tracks such as Screenplays.  His fans, new and old, will find the musical territory is rather unfamiliar on Spirit of Minnie but that reflective mind is still beavering away to produce music that intrigues in its mystery.  It would have been easy for him to reproduce the approaches of the past as they’d gone down well.  So, hats off to Will Varley for taking his music to the next level – it’s worth following to see where it takes you.