Writing about Jim Moray’s gig at Twickfolk a month or so ago, I called his new album, Skulk, his best record yet. It’s a judgement I stand by, following a good few weeks of intensive listening to the album, which was released yesterday. Moray’s records have always had their splendours, but their overall impact has sometimes been lessened by awkward moments and forced experimentation. Quality control is sustained throughout Skulk, however. The sound - more traditional than ever, but with plenty of room for unexpected flourishes - is diverse yet cohesive. You hear the influences - Nic Jones, John Martyn, June Tabor, Chris Wood - but the record ends up as its own entirely distinctive, singular thing. The musicianship is superb (with Andy Cutting, BJ Cole and Tim Harries among those putting in appearances) and the choice of material exemplary, the ten tracks exploring classic folk topics - separation, war, Love Gone Wrong, the supernatural, random acts of violence and oppression - in seductive arrangements that vary from spry and playful (“The Golden Glove”), to intense and dramatic (“The Captain’s Apprentice,” “If It’s True”), passing through the languid, brooding, atmospheric and jazzy ("The Eighteenth of June," “Courting is a Pleasure”). A well-judged cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Big Love” twangs and roars; the rollicking “woodland elf rapist” ballad “Hind Etin” grips and entices. And “Lord Douglas” is, perhaps, the most exquisite thing that Moray has recorded to date, a stunning variant on the Child Ballad "Earl Brand" that Moray has elegantly fashioned into a seamless seven minute narrative that moves and haunts and thrills. Essential.