Stuart McCallum: City

review mccallum x1 cong

Although Manchester guitarist McCallum’s album is out on Naim Jazz (his second on the label), this is more a soul album than jazz. The more jazzy sections are on the verge of being easy listening, though they stay the cool Pat Metheny side, rather than going all Bob James.

It’s a chilled, late night album, and we’ve enjoyed it a lot. It may well figure in our albums of the year; while it’s easy on the ear, it’s got a lot of meat on the bone, if the editor will let us mix metaphors.

The albums it most reminded us of were those laid back soul albums we’ve reviewed over the years, such as Detroit singer Dwele, or Fried (singer Jonte Short and ex-Beat/Fine Young Cannibals guitarist David Steele) but we concede they’re a bit leftfield, so imagine if Massive Attack played soul; more likely to be played by Craig Charles than the R3 jazz show.

The opening song is the title track, which is heavy on the late night soul and less on the jazz, though drummer Richard Spaven (who co-wrote much of the album) lays down a jazzy beat and there’s plenty of jazz noodling from McCallum.

Inhale is lovely, a late night, semi ambient tune in the style of Metheny, a sound that continues into North Star before Basement Jaxx’s Sharlene Hector comes in and it all goes lusciously soulful. Effergy has some gentle flamenco and vocals from Fridolijn van Poll. Elsewhere, TOnics has a chilled breakbeat vibe and nice acoustic guitar.

It’s not an album to pick out tracks from, which is why it’s so good, and it just eases from one song to the next. Jazz and soul fans should consider it, but also fans of altfolk and electronica. It’s just a good album with lots of interesting, if relaxed, things going on.

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