A Review of the Mike Wray CD
"Mike Wray"


"Mike Wray"
by Mike Wray

No Label
Copyright Mike Wray 2005
michael.j.wray@btinternet.com

This review is written by Dai Woosnam, daigress@hotmail.com, 3/07

This album was one of my top ten albums of 2006, and yet paradoxically the modest Mike Wray originally released it as a limited edition aimed very much at his friends on the Folk Scene in the East Midlands of England. Hopefully “word of mouth” will see this album necessitating a proper big second pressing.

Let me try and explain why the CD still holds the appeal for me that it did when I first heard it some months ago. I am not sure that it's that easy a task to explain though, as this is one of those albums where the artiste interprets his favourite songs from the Folk canon. (And thus inevitably in such cases, one's man floor is another man's ceiling: his taste is not mine, and thus I could have done without a few of the tracks. But golly, when he tackles content that I reckon is TRULY worthy of his talent, wow! Well THEN, the album really GLOWS.)

So let me set the scene. This is just one man and his guitar. No session men, no gimmicks/no technical aids. Relaxed. One can imagine him singing and playing to one, as the fire crackles in the hearth.

And what playing! Listen to his version of “Vincent Black Lightning 1952”! It is the second of two Richard Thompson songs (the first is Thompson's hymn-of-praise to that fine singer Anne Briggs, “Beeswing”). Really authoritative playing. And this persuasive guitar style lends itself so well to the next track, the Joplinesque “Georgia Camp Meeting” by Kerry Mills.

But that said, there are lots of fine guitarists about. Several living on Mike's doorstep. John Blanks, Dick Appleton, Mike Dewsbury are just some of several that spring to mind. Why would Mike Wray's guitar playing be so special?

In truth, in itself it probably isn't. So it has to be Mike's voice, and his guitar's relation to it.

And now I contradict myself. For the voice it must be said, seen in strictly technical terms, is unlikely to get him into one of the world's great conservatoires to study singing!

But that said, it goes without saying that of course a voice is so much more than the sum of its raw materials.

If you take each of our corpses after we leave this world, there will be enough sulphur to make a box of matches; enough iron to make a handful of nails; and enough fat to make several tablets of soap (or in my case, a few BOXES).

I calculate that the value of the raw materials in our bodies perhaps runs to ten pounds (Sterling). But when one ingredient is added to those raw materials, then the value of a human being becomes PRICELESS.

That ingredient is “the human spirit”.

And that is what Mike Wray injects bigtime into this album. There is some weird and magical chemical reaction that takes place when his somewhat understated vocals, meet his fine acoustic guitar playing, meet these particular numbers (well, most of the pieces anyway!)

The man is something of an alchemist.

Somehow he gets more out of the songs than I'd ever have dreamt possible. Much more. For instance, allergic though I am to Garth Brooks, I found myself really warming to Mike's version of his “What's She Doing Now?”.

And the two Thompson songs were astonishing inasmuch as I'd probably heard RT sing them each a hundred times, but a combination of Wray's sublime diction and patent sincerity brought the lyric into my head in a way that I can honestly say made them almost seem NEW SONGS for me.

Strongly recommended. Album only obtainable from Michael at his e-address:

michael.j.wray@btinternet.com

Dai Woosnam
Grimsby, England
daigress@hotmail.com


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