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You think you know folk music and then someone like Jim Moray comes along.
Fact is, folk music as it was constituted by the English revivalists of the 1950s and early 1960s was an historical blip. A sort of digression. Folk was never intended for ideological scrutiny, never conceived to be the subject of research, never sung as a corrective to the vanities of modernity. Folk has always belonged to the modern world – the modern world of the 18th century, the modern world of the 19th century. And it certainly did not remain lively in the world of the late 20th century merely to oppose the coming of rock ‘n’ roll, any more than it suffused the early part of the 20th century to lend a hand, and a little grain, to the evolution of modern English classical music…
Jim Moray sees pop, rock and folk all as parts of the same musical world – because they are. He has known no other way to think about music. From his debut, BBC Folk Award-winning album in 2003, Sweet England, through Jim Moray (2006), Low Culture (2008: fRoots Critics Poll Best Album Award-winner and Mojo Folk Album of the Year) and In Modern History (2010), Moray’s career has been a continuous avowal of folk’s relevance to contemporary life and its total indivisibility from the impulses which shape the very best rock and pop. He deploys beatboxes and melodeons, electric guitars and thumb pianos, mandolins and rappers. He sings with the kind of English soul which has no home century.
His most recent album, 'Skulk', is an inventory of all the ways in which the folk tradition and rock and pop together speak to the world in which we all live. Skulk was produced by Jim himself with a supporting cast of musicians sympathetic to Jim’s tastes and sensibilities. With two exceptions, the songs are traditional in provenance but absolutely modern in form and delivery. The other two are by Lindsey Buckingham and Anais Mitchell.
Indeed, the world of Skulk admits of no boundaries, no more between Child Ballad and Fleetwood Mac than between Ralph Vaughan Williams, Nic Jones and the Orphean father of songs, as endured in the modern hell of Hadestown. In Skulk it all makes sense, together.