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There was a distinct sense of the old and the new at the Roots Music Club in Doncaster tonight, not that Jim Moray is entirely new, having been around on the British folk scene for almost twenty years now. The appearance of two local folk stalwarts in Dave Lomas and Pete Millbrook brought a sense of the old folk club days, when it was very much about entertainment; the two musicians cheerfully abandoning any concept of a set list, almost making it up as they went along; "What's next Pete?, "I dunno, what do you want to do Dave?" It was an almost nostalgic opening half hour, the two former Brewers Troop boys, settling the audience into what was expected to be a good night of music.
Jim Moray hit the folk scene running back in 2001 a couple of years prior to the release of his debut album SWEET ENGLAND, effectively heralding in a brand new feel to British folk song, whilst fearlessly incorporating audio/visual gadgetry into his own particular vision of where these songs should be going. Returning to Doncaster after five years, his last visit playing the CAST Theatre as part of the Doncaster Folk Festival, Jim enquired "were any of you there?", the now Liverpool-based singer making his first tentative efforts to engage with the audience.
Strangely, even after all these years, we still consider Jim Moray a newcomer, despite having released no less than six albums and having played many of the top festivals and concert halls. Tonight, the gadgets were kept to a minimum with only the occasional step on an effects pedal, no light show or photographic visual displays, and equipped only with an acoustic guitar and a concertina, the two sets were littered with well-constructed and finely arranged songs from the tradition. As he pointed out, it's not long into a Jim Moray set before you get a 'Lord' song, there's plenty to choose from, Lord Randall, Lord Franklin, Lord Willoughby, Lord Bateman and others. Tonight Jim settled for Lord Gregory and Lord Douglas, the latter being one of the most sublime performances of the night.
Mostly accompanied by guitar, the songs were both engaging and were performed with little fuss or fanfare, the idea being that all that was really necessary was the song itself. Swapping a couple of times for the concertina, notably When This Old Hat Was New and once again during the encore, Jim Moray delivered just the one unaccompanied song, Joe Holmes' Another Man's Wedding, one of the songs from his current album UPCETERA.
Perhaps the most engaging song of the set was Sounds Of Earth, a new original song which concerns the romance between Carl Sagan and Ann Druyan as they worked on the golden record aboard the Voyager I and II spacecrafts, a song I would have liked to have heard again in quick succession if such a thing was acceptable in a live setting. Instead, I rushed home and popped UPCETERA on the player, whist writing this! Before the leaving of Doncaster, Jim performed The Leaving of Liverpool, a homage to his adopted city, a good enough note to finish on.