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Low Culture

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Album Review

Jim Moray has had a huge impact on English folk music. His debut appeared out of nowhere as a revelation, then, after a sophomore effort that held promise but not a lot of focus, he's returned with Low Culture, which continues the revolution. It's perhaps most evident on his treatment of the incest ballad "Lucy Wan," where the rap between verses (courtesy of Bubbz) adds a whole new dimension to the song, making it more personal — as well as taking trad. folk into grime. And why not? In their way, both are equally folk music. "All You Pretty Girls" transmutes the XTC song into a sea shanty in a most effective manner, while "Across the Western Ocean" takes on an ‘80s feel, right down to the a-ha break into falsetto. There's also a lovely treatment of Bella Hardy's "Three Black Feathers," a song that might be new, but which sits perfectly within the tradition. Throughout, Moray's voice exudes the kind of warmth and personality that draws the listener in (as do his arrangements — at least for those with an open mind). It's folk music for the 21st century, a reinvention of what's gone before, building upon it and filled with plenty of surprises — "Leaving Australia," for example, uses both kora and thumb piano, either of which are typical English folk instruments. It's the kind of album to outrage purists, but please others — and a little division is never a bad thing.


Born: Macclesfield, Cheshire, England

Genre: Singer/Songwriter

Years Active: '00s

Few Brit folk artists have caused such a stir as Jim Moray. His debut album, 2003's Sweet England, polarized opinion in dramatic fashion. Old traditionalists were dismissive of the computer-generated sounds employed on his daringly adventurous arrangements of old ballads featuring beats and tape loops, influenced as much by Massive Attack and Radiohead as the old trad singers. More, however, saw it as the most innovative and exciting development for British folk music in years, and at least one reviewer...
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Low Culture, Jim Moray
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