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Paolo Nutini - These Streets

Paolo Nutini, These Streets

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 3.5 out of 5

ANY album that’s been partly inspired by a turbulent relationship with a girlfriend gives cause for concern. Such turbulence can create a bumpy ride in terms of listening pleasure, particularly if the focus is too downbeat.

Fortunately, the debut album from 19-year-old singer/songwriter Paolo Nutini largely avoids such pitfalls to emerge as quite an engaging listen.

In spite of his Italian name, Paolo hails from Paisley, in Scotland, and his music is inspired by the likes of John Martyn and Van Morisson, with a little Ray Charles thrown in.

It’s a heady mix of personal reflection and social commentary that provides compelling evidence of another new talent.

Kicking off with the opening track, Jenny Don’t Be Hasty, which provides a strong showcase for his slightly husky vocal delivery and strong guitar hooks, the album then proceeds to chart a mix of tempos – some of them upbeat, some of them melancholy, and occasionally more than a little bit soulful.

Jenny, with its wise lyrics, is a true story based on Paolo’s encounters with an older woman that’s delivered with a maturity beyond the young singer’s years (“you said you’d marry me if I was 23”). The guitar hooks are strong, the melodies instantly engaging.

Paolo goes a little bit James Blunt for the next track, former single Last Request, which slows down the tempo, comes over all moody and bursts forth with lyrics such as “grant my last request and just let me hold you, don’t shrug your shoulders, lay down beside me”. It’s achingly romantic, packed with longing and sure to go down a storm with fans of well-written ballads.

That same sense of regret is to be found in Rewind, an acoustic ballad that recalls (probably) the same failed relationship. Rather than being too downbeat, it’s well-considered and poignant.

There’s more personal stuff relayed in the slow-building, mid-tempo title track These Streets, which recalls his experiences of moving to London and includes such observational pearls as “cross the border into the big bad world where it takes you about an hour to cross the road, just to stumble across another poor old soul”.

Just when you think the album has settled into a mid-tempo groove, however, Paolo conjures up the funky shoe-shuffler that is New Shoes, changing his vocals to a much smoother, soulful style and dropping a hand-clap beat that marks a welcome upbeat change of pace. It’s here that the Ray Charles influence surfaces in style.

Elsewhere, there’s a classic form of delivery on Loving You, another soulful offering that adopts some nicely-judged falsetto bursts that once again succeed in stretching Paolo vocally and providing further evidence of his expansive talents. It’s another one for the romantics among you – both male and female.

If the album drifts out with two more sombre tracks, then it can be forgiven given the overall quality that has come before. It’s undoubtedly a very classy affair that’s certain to win Paolo many friends.

The streets ahead of Nutini may well soon be paved with gold.

Track listing:
1. Jenny Don’t Be Hasty
2. Last Request
3. Rewind
4. Million Faces
5. These Streets
6. New Shoes
7. White Lies
8. Loving You
9. Autumn
10. Alloway Grove