Southern gothic via Manchester

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Score 4

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Tex Appeal

It’s a tried and tested fast-track to success: talented young artist is taken under the wing of one older and wiser, and groomed for the public. But Micah P Hinson’s story is a little different. Befriended at a young and vulnerable age by a Vogue cover model and rock star’s widow in his adopted hometown of Abilene, Texas, Hinson’s life spiralled out of control until, rather than riding into town on glamorous fur coattails, he was arrested for forging prescriptions and jailed. By the age of 19 he was homeless, bankrupt and rejected by his family.

Fortunately, financial destitution inspired creative wealth in the form of a raft of songs that Hinson?a bespectacled 22-year-old with a cracked but lugubrious baritone?recorded in Manchester with The Earlies (under their Names On Records pseudonym), two of whom were his childhood friends in Texas. Their lushly orchestrated arrangements steer him away from self-pity without detracting from the genuine intimacy of his songs, cocooning their skeletal forms with a full-blooded, human warmth. Had Bill “Smog” Callahan woken up in bed on the right side, he might sound a little like this (as, in fact, he did occasionally on 1999’s Knock Knock), though Hinson himself sees Leonard Cohen as more of an influence.

It’s an ambitious but striking debut that demonstrates how the tradition of acoustic songwriting need not be frail to be authentic or enhanced with electronic glitches to be contemporary. While his vulnerability remains intact on tracks like the eerie “The Possibilities”, “Don’t You Forget” ends in a positively intense fashion and by “On My Way” Hinson is roaring. Any initial thoughts of Hinson as yet another tortured troubadour are dismissed. Truly, a gospel of redemption to believe in.