Putting his message across, young headline-hunting troubadour gets it straight.
Modern crop of singers-songwriters seem to be either growing in a world of their own, airy-fairy way, or being so direct that their missives feel unattractively blunt, yet this guy walk a graceful line. It was literal after his debut when Varley, guitar in his hand and a packed tent on his back, undertook a 130-mile walking tour playing to the kindred spirits, although the 26-year-old’s second album is bound to receive wider exposure without such an intimate enterprise. The lad lashes the British government in the dry laugh-laced “I Got This E-Mail” namechecking two “C’s” – Cameron and Clegg – but, while tuned-in to the moment, he also taps into ancient tradition with the “Blood And Bone” ballad which could rival the best folk rock of Will’s country. And if opener “Where The Wild Wind Blows” bristles with Dylanisms, it’s a great scene setter that shifts the “we got everything we need” satisfaction to the title track’s desperate darkness.
Still, there’s a modicum of hope shining through the gloom “Until The Grass Gets Greener” and there’s nostalgic yearning in “She’s Been Drinking” to contrast the cabaret sway of “When You’re Gone” with its mesmeric violin. But then “The Self Checkout Shuffle” throws the listener out of the lyrical reverie into the harsh, if humorous, reality, and “Soldiers On The Wall” shatters the dream behind the patina-covered mural of the singer’s making leaving enough air for his voice to fly. The titular idiom means the shortest route between two points, and this record grows close to one’s heart getting higher and higher to the world which is common to us all.