The Jim Moray sampler A Beginners Guide presents tracks from Moray's albums Sweet England (2003), Jim Moray (2006), and Low Culture (2008), as well as his EP I Am Jim Moray (2001) and the single "Song of Thyme" (2004), plus a video for his cover of XTC's "All You Pretty Girls." For new listeners, especially Americans, who may be unfamiliar with the singer, it presents a good cross section of his work. Moray's musical approach (or gimmick) is to take traditional British folk songs, some well-known ("Barbara Allen"), others more obscure, and create pop arrangements for them using acoustic, electric, and electronic instruments. He sings over those arrangements in an ingenuous, ingratiating tenor that has a timbre reminiscent of Graham Nash. The results are often attractive, though sometimes a bit cute. In his native country, Moray has sometimes been hailed as a big step forward for folk music, generally by people who don't actually like folk music and who use him as a cudgel to beat up on "purists" (i.e., people who actually do like folk music). That isn't his fault, of course, and A Beginners Guide demonstrates that he can be an engaging singer who frequently comes up with entertaining pop settings for traditional compositions, even if he tends largely to eviscerate those compositions in the process.
AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann