A Review of the Mike Wray CD
"Mike Wray"No Label
by Mike Wray
Copyright Mike Wray 2005
This review is written by Dai Woosnam, email@example.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:
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