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Jim Moray Low Culture Review

Album. Released 2008.  

BBC Review

The final choice for best album of 2008 just got a lot harder!

Sid Smith 2008

Some artists take a while to get into their stride whilst others arrive on the scene fully-formed. Having been hailed as the saviour of folk music by just about every broadsheet up and monthly magazine up and down the land, you could be forgiven for taking all the hyperbole about Jim Moray with a very big pinch of salt. The thing is though, he really is every bit as good as they claim, and his fourth album continues a roll of good tunes and canny choices that many artists much longer in the tooth would give their right arm for.

The yearning clarity of Moray's voice on the sublime, uplifting chorus of Across The Western Ocean is utterly addictive. That same song is also an eloquent testimony to the infectious off-centre arrangements that infuse this material. His belief that the often bucolic settings of traditional music should rub shoulders with more urban and contemporary airs, are brilliantly released in a Grime-folk rendition of Lucy Wan. Here, a rapping guest spot supplied by British/Ghanian performer, Bubbz, drills down deep into the psycho-drama of the tale much like the sub-woofer sonics underpinning the clattering synthetic beats that come and go.

If the music is a triumph of different cultures and references then so too is the album artwork. Witty pastiches of pulp fiction pot-boiler paperbacks, with their seedy mix of debauchery and violence, echo the content of many of Moray's songs. Thus the cover for the racy reading of Henry's Downfall is emblazoned with the lurid strapline: ''She belonged to every boy in the gang.'' What else are the verses of those 'I spied a young maiden'-style tunes if not the trash fiction of their days?

Low Culture is so itty-bitty perfect in just about every respect that it's hard not to join in with the tidal wave of praise that's been flowing his way. In the end attempting to apply any credible kind of objectivity proves to be a futile exercise as one beautiful melody after another hauls you in, hook, line and sinker.

The final choice for best album of 2008 just got a lot harder!

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