It’s hard not to be intrigued by Paolo Nutini, even if his brand of sunkissed soul isn’t really your bag. A Scot, with Italian roots, singing soul music – you’ve got to admit, it’s a unique set of characteristics. It works too, because Nutini has gone from strength to strength and ended up with a real corker of a third album – ‘Caustic Love.’ It’s an album that isn’t likely to win over the doubters, but it will make diehard fans fall in love with him all over again.
The last ten years have been a musical evolution for Nutini, who released first album ‘These Streets’ at just nineteen years of age. The blues and soul influences have been there from the very beginning, but it’s taken three albums for Nutini to find his confidence and make the record that’s been hiding beneath a mish-mash of ska, reggae, folk, pop and R&B. On ‘Caustic Love,’ he’s an accomplished, powerful contemporary soul artist with a range and a voice that belie his middle class Paisley roots.
The album opens with single ‘Scream (Funk My Life Up) which is, fortunately, nowhere near as naff as it sounds on paper. It’s a super cool, ultra danceable track with spiky guitars and mischievous lyrics like ‘I don’t even know her name, but she sticks to me. And in the climax she would scream with me.’ This is Nutini at his most cocksure, but it’s not unappealing – there’s a real bluesy charm to the swagger, a twinkle in the eye that says it’s all a game but where’s the harm in playing along?
The first half of ‘Caustic Love’ is arguably the strongest, with standout tracks ‘Let Me Down Easy’ and ‘One Day’ acting as validation for an artist that many people have ridiculed, asking how can you be a soul singer with skinny jeans and a floppy indie fringe? Well, Nutini has an answer to that question and it’s one that leaves you in no doubt of his credentials. The most wonderful thing about this album is that it reeks of devotion, of a man who lives and breathes the genres that he loves.
He’s studied the greats, he knows how to channel Marvin Gaye, Percy Sledge, Al Green, James Brown and Curtis Mayfield at will. If anything, that’s the one flaw of this offering – it’s a little too studied at times. The soulful moans, cries and guttural growls that punctuate tracks like ‘Cherry Blossom’ and the psychedelic ‘Iron Sky’ can tip into imitation and it sometimes feels like Nutini has spent a little too long practising his soul moves in the mirror. It’s a minor issue though, and this Scotch crooner should certainly be proud of baring his musical soul.