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Matthew E White, Big Inner (Domino)

There is much to like about Matthew E White's country-soul debut, not least the Willie Mitchell horns, Philly strings, and the gospel choir that provide the backing to his seven song devotional suite.

It launches itself in a way that suggests we are eavesdropping on a continuum and cheerfully plunders Joe South's Games People Play and Jimmy Cliff's Many Rivers To Cross (on Will You Love Me), just to reinforce the point.

There are some beautiful sonic touches across the whole set (J C Kuhl's baritone sax and bass clarinet in particular) and its structure, building from the personal to a declamatory statement of faith, is bold and beguiling.

The difficulty, and it is a big one, is White himself, whose voice simply doesn't measure up to the material, or the chorus behind him. Al Green he is not. What he sounds like is a more tuneful, but less characterful, Kurt Wagner, of Lambchop fame. It's a sub-similarity that makes you mistrust all the other ingredients, and the egotistical shallowness of consciously trying to make a new Astral Weeks, complete with its own studio set up, team of collaborators, code of sleeve art glyphs – and punning title.

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