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Review: 'VARDA, JAMES'
'The River And The Stars'   

-  Label: 'Sweet Things Records'
-  Genre: 'Folk' -  Release Date: '3rd June 2013'

Our Rating:
With just three albums in 25 years, James Varda is like The Blue Nile of folk.

His debut, Hunger, produced by John Leckie and recorded in Roy Harper's Lincolnshire studio, was released way back in 1988.

Even though that record was well received, it took him 15 years to come up with a follow up: In The Valley. Again, good reviews didn't tempt him to adopt a higher profile or to rush to release a new collection.

After another gap of seven years, this new album begins, appropriately enough, with the lines These times call for brevity".

The ten new songs were mainly written in East Bergholt and, in the sleeve notes, Varda expresses the hope that some of the beauty of the landscapes comes through in the music and there's no question that it does. The cover art and photographs in the booklet are from this part of the Dedham Vale.

These are hymns to a quiet, reflective life; love songs that also evoke a strong spiritual connection with nature.

The album title and songs like Along The River and Seven Days Rain make the direct link between feelings and the rural setting. The mood is reflective yet affirmative.

These beautifully crafted songs are poetic reflections of a man in tune with the seasons who has rejected the rat race and can now be found walking the dogs in the woods or by the river, taking time to notice a kestrel on a post, the call of a barn owl or the mist on the fields.

Comparisons have been made to Nick Drake or Roy Harper but although he takes inspiration from a pastoral setting he doesn't really sound like either. On The Well, he sounds more like George Harrison than a traditional folk singer.

Varda is assisted by a small troupe of musicians. These Times is the most band-orientated tune but all are built around simple voice and acoustic guitar arrangements. The lyrical The Path Is Growing Deep , featuring delicate backing vocals from Laura Jane Davies, is my personal favourite.

By now it is clear that James Varda is someone who prefers to stay out of the limelight but the high quality of his songs should ensure that he continues to build on his loyal, and patient, fan base.

James Varda's website
  author: Martin Raybould

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VARDA, JAMES - The River And The Stars
VARDA, JAMES - The River And The Stars