How Big How Blue How Beautiful
Paolo Nutini's third album is an expert recreation of rough-hewn 70s soul – but is it anything more than pastiche?
The Scottish singer-songwriter's enjoyed an intriguing career arc, from rather bland young man in the James Morrison mould to roaring calypso good-time guy on 2009's Sunny Side Up to this. And what is this? Nutini's now stationed somewhere between Van Morrison and Al Green, and reaching up to Sly Stone. There's barely a note of Caustic Love that couldn't have been recorded before 1975, so impeccably is it rooted in bassy Superfly funk and Muscle Shoals horns, any digital techniques disdained. It's all very, hmmm, authentic.
Whatever his antecedents, Nutini goes about his business with some panache. Caustic Love convinces in its revivalist bravado, with Scream (Funk My Life Up) a lusty intense rumble, One Day an on-your-knees Otis Redding pleader and Better Man a fluid, whiskey-soaked folk-soul groove. It'd be a tough old sod who couldn't find something to enjoy in Nutini's pinpoint appropriations.
When you hear him huskily coo the title of Someone Like You exactly the way Rod Stewart rasps the same phrase on Reason To Believe, it suddenly hits home – Nutini is the new Rod. It's up to you whether you want your trad-soul pure or filtered through a blue-eyed boy's acute tastes, but you can't deny these lads do it with charm.