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Grant Campbell The Spark (Crooked Mouth Records)

Across four previous albums, Glasgow-born singer-songwriter Grant Campbell has stalked a territory close on the musical map to Springsteen's Nebraska.

More stripped-back than the full-band arrangements of last year's Fixing The Shadows, this fifth release provides more varied contexts for his resonant baritone than anything he's done before. This is a voice - deep, warm, rough at the edges - that would be at home in a lowlit bar, trading tales with Kris Kristofferson, Tom Waits and Brett Sparks of The Handsome Family, especially when its bruised dignity is matched to the timbre of the cello on Fallen Times or the quiet organ and banjo backing of Getaway Car. Just when you think his melodies might stick too doggedly to familiar dusty paths trodden by the lone country singer, along comes penultimate track Never Give Up, a big tune in anyone's book. The set closes with Climbing The Walls, which could be a melancholy Neil Diamond writing for late period Johnny Cash. Fine company, indeed.

Alan Morrison

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