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In The Face of It All

Manchester singer-songwriter James Holt releases his debut EP, In The Face of It All, in March. To say the 21-year-old singer sounds older than his years may be clichéd, but his voice is undeniably more akin to Lennon or Dylan than any of his peers, and his songs are delightfully retro. ‘What Happened to John?’ is instantly recognisable as a Dylan-inspired number, as harmonica teams with rockabilly piano. As catchy as any Jake Bugg track, but far more musically complex, its varied pace and detail makes it the clear standout track from this collection. All the more interesting is that Holt plays and records all instruments himself, setting himself apart from the typical guitar balladeer.

The title track takes a more folksy turn, as poetic lyrics intertwine with delicate acoustic guitar, and could pass for a 60s protest song. ‘Alone Again and Always’ has a definite Merseybeat vibe, drifting off into dreamy sequences of regret and heartbreak, while ‘I Thought You Were Crying (But It Was Just The Rain)’ explores the same sentiments, but takes the tempo down a level. ‘Promises At Dawn’ follows in a similar vein and is sweet enough, if a bit forgettable.

Although Holt takes himself a tad seriously, it’s an interesting and diverse first offering from a promising young artist with some genuinely charming moments, and his blend of down-to-earth folk with rock’n’roll spirit is fiercely enticing.

The EP launch show is at Kings Arms on 28 February.