Facing the world with no more than their wits and an acoustic guitar, it is the sorry fate of many singer-songwriters to sound thin and unremarkable.
This is not an accusation that could be levelled at George Ezra. He may be a university dropout barely out of his teens, but this singular artist’s debut is a kaleidoscopic exercise in blues- and folk-hued pop that teems with idiosyncratic wit, heft and gravitas.
The latter is partly down to his voice. A 20-year-old ingénue from Hertford, Ezra is nonetheless blessed with a gravelly, preternaturally husky set of pipes that suggests a fledgling Home Counties Johnny Cash. On Did You Hear The Ran, he sounds like one of the Alan Lomax Mississippi blues field recordings that Moby filched so brilliantly on Play.
Yet Ezra is no tired period piece; far from it. His multi-layered compositions fire and zing with laconic, utterly contemporary observations on life, love and loss. The lolloping yet intense Drawing Board finds him confessing his devotion to a lover yet self-effacingly admitting that his efforts are pointless: “There’s just one problem with my plan – you spend your nights with another man.”
He has been likened to Dylan, and many a nascent troubadour has found this to be the kiss of death, but in Ezra’s case there is merit in the comparison. Indeed, Dylan himself would tip his titfer at a line as gnomic, surrealistic and beautifully delivered as Cassy O’s mordant “I travelled to Australia and I travelled there by train/This may sound strange to you, but on the way I gained a day.”
At a hearteningly tender age, the precocious and personality-plus George Ezra is self-possessed way beyond his years. This album marks the arrival of a major new talent.