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Fresh face

Paolo Nutini - These Streets
3 stars (out of 5 stars)
Reviewed: Feb. 20, 2007
Paolo Nutini

Review by Andy Argyrakis

His name may be Italian, but Paolo Nutini was born and bred in Paisley, Scotland. Though his original dream was to play soccer professionally as a goalkeeper, the tunesmith landed a job as roadie, T-shirt salesman and occasional opening act for a friend's band at a mere 16-years-old. Now 19, he's turned to singing and writing full time, chalking up the Live Sessions EP late last year and landing his Atlantic debut These Streets.

Though he's already gaining steam in England, the newcomer's influencers aren't the traditional Brit-pop favorites one might expect. Instead he turns to vintage soul and R&B, citing Ray Charles, Ben E. King and even Van Morrison as primary muses, all of which creep into his ten-track disc without going overboard. His blue-eyed soul is especially apparent come the stutter "Last Request," while jazzy leanings permeate "New Shoes." But the acoustic centering of his arrangements come "Rewind" and "Loving You" make this far less an urban affair and certainly appropriate for a laid back coffeehouse setting.

While his rich vocals and inviting strums score high marks, there are a handful of tunes where Nutini veers towards the all out derivative. The piano tipped "Autumn" and the falsetto-laden "Million Faces" are directly reminiscent of James Blunt while falling significantly below his more original outpourings. Luckily there's redemption come the eight-minute combo track "Alloway Groove/Northern Skies," which begins as an R&B meet roots rock romp and simmers with sparse strums and chilled out vocals. This official debut may not push all the right buttons, but it does connect with enough invention to warrant attention and curiosity as to how this determined fresh face will develop.

Watch Paolo Nutini's "Rewind"

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