It was 18 years ago when Will Varley first started his career out popping up at open mic nights in and around London. Since then he has created a well-known brand behind his name that has seen him release one EP, five studio albums, tour the country without relent and most importantly he co-founded and set up the now widely known Smugglers Records. This year saw the release of Varley’s latest endeavour Spirit of Minnie, a stunning collection of folk-country songs that make you feel as though you have traversed all four seasons in just 40-odd minutes.
Spirit of Minnie has everything we have come to expect from the remarkable troubadour that is Will Varley. 18 years in the business has bestowed the enviable ability to spin gold when it comes to music and with Spirit of Minnie it feels as though Varley has spun his magic to the point where the whole world is tied together in a glittering golden aura. Leading with his trademark inimitable voice, known for its warm, smoky and gravelled nature Spirit of Minnie seems to spread warmth all through your body like whisky on a bitter winters day. With this warmth it’s difficult not to feel emboldened by his work. A fiercely intelligent performer who despite his soft delivery always carries a roaring power behind his words that hit you like a wrecking ball and leave you contemplating so much in this world. Careful and contemplative, Varley explores a variety of topics from creation and death to war and capitalism. It’s a collection of songs that leave not just their tunes in your mind but the words they carry with them.
With a wealth of talent to his name Varley is able to deftly harness a variety of genres and influences that allows him to turn his deft hands to anything he chooses. In Spirit of Minnie he carefully stiches together rich and layered tracks that can reach out and touch you, lifting you up with their warmth but he also juxtaposes this with tracks that despite their warm sound leave you with a sense of horror. Closing the album with Insect, a soft and catchy song that sounds charming at first but with the words that drift along above this music, by the end you find yourself hearing machine gun fire in the midst of it all. This is Varley’s gift. He can present the world soothing country ballads that are rife with generous fiddle arcs, gospel organs and soulful slide guitar that can brush your skin like a summer breeze but he can also hurl you into the midst of a war zone without so much as a helmet.
Varley has spent years honing his fine craft and the result is the charming ability to turn his hand to any style he chooses. Spirit of Minnie has flavours of sound from across the world and with this wealth of fusions he weaves beautiful and tender tales, tying them all together with his Bob Dylan gravelled voice. Yet another remarkable album to Varley’s name.
For more info and live dates please visit: https://www.willvarley.com/
Review by Joe Knipe