‘Spirit of Minnie’ is leap forward for Will Varley

For his fifth studio album the singer-songwriter has worked with a full backing band for the first time. 

Released on 9 February via Xtra Mile Recordings and following 2016’s much praised Kingsdown Sundown, Will Varley’s  Spirit Of Minnie marks a distinct change of direction for the singer-songwriter. Produced by Cameron McVey (Massive Attack, Portishead, Neneh Cherry) and partnered with a UK tour this week including his largest headline show to date at London’s O2 Shepherds Bush Empire headline on the of its release, the new album expands on Varley’s previous sound, all the while retaining his gift for painterly, affirming and immediate lyrics.

Unmistakably rooted in ancient folk traditions, combined with a voice and lyricism that resonates firmly in the present, Will Varley delivers a record that is packed with wonderful stories and an incredible atmosphere that will have the listener lost in its ambience, admiring Varley’s graft. 

The pedal steel guitar and violins in tracks like Breaking The Bread or Statues, underlines the folklore character of the record. Story-telling folklore seems to be a forgotten art, only kept alive by the likes of icons like Bob Dylan and Billy Bragg. But thankfully we have young songwriters like Will Varley who are willing and, more importantly, able to take on those tales and traditions and bring them back to life and present them to a younger audience. 

Throughout the entire album, it becomes clear how entirely Spirit of Minnie would sound phenomenal in an acoustic setting, especially tracks like Let It Slide or Screenplay. Insect closes the album with a tale of humanity, our place on Earth, our curiosity, and our follies. 

Five albums, travelling the UK (and the world), playing his songs – all his travels and experiences have shaped a songwriter who tells us of his tales so that we find ourselves within them, so that we stop and actually listen to the music we are playing on our 21st century devices.