Nottingham famously had a Sheriff so there must be a wee bit of the old wild west lurking in the genes there, how else to explain the sheer vein of Americana that courses through this debut EP from Nottinghamshire lad Luke Whittemore. Over a mere six songs Whittemore crafts a delightful disc that roams from creamy pedal steel infused ballads to brokedown country waltzes and tearstained laments, inspired by various sounds from the States yes but with enough grounding to remind the listener that his vista is not Monument valley but the peaks of The Pennines.
The EP opens with Nothing Beyond This Northern Town with Whittemore defiantly proclaiming “I was born and raised in a small town…ain’t nothing beyond this northern town” over acoustic guitar. Just as one starts to expect an Alan Price like hymn to the north and the old mine workings, bass, drums and pedal steel glide in steering the song away from gritty Northern rock into more of a blue collar American lament although the sentiment remains the same speaking to the universality of the plight of the working man. Whittemore sings excellently here, his voice resigned, weary, the wish expressed in the closing lines that it was so different somehow sounding forlorn. Whittemore has obviously drunk deep from the well of despair. Have Mercy is another fine slice of pedal steel soaked gloom as Whittemore sings, “there’s a dusty tale of misery that the devil he just don’t hide” while So Far Apart is a pained and bittersweet love song, the backing here, a plaintive guitar and pedal steel, so poignant.
It’s not all doom and gloom however as If It Weren’t For The Rain is a spritely mandolin driven number that describes a relationship that may or might not be ongoing, the singer’s memory influenced by the half full or half empty bottle by the bedside. The delivery recalls Ronnie Lane and even Rod Stewart back in his glory days when he was more interested in a mandolin wind than a blonde bombshell. There’s a fine Texan like wooziness to the loose limbed guitar speckled waltz time of Lonesome Level Crossing but Whittemore takes us back to his northern climes on the closing Cold On The Hills, a song that echoes English folk but with its muted banjo and wheezy accordion captures that fine old Appalachian chill.
Northern Town is a fully realised debut, striking in its assurance and it certainly signposts Mr. Whittemore as someone to watch out for. The EP was released on 10th June and is available here. In the meantime he’s playing some dates in England over the next four weeks, dates are here.