Album: Every Kingdom

Artist: Ben Howard

Grade: B+

From Island Records, the label that brought us Nick Drake, John Martyn and Cat Stevens, comes the newest entry to this lineage of folk singer-songwriters: Ben Howard. His debut album Every Kingdom is pleasantly unpretentious, and quite tuneful to boot.

The opening track and lead single ‘Old Pine’ starts off sounding quite unassuming, before the rest of the instruments kick in, adding a new energy to the piece. A combination of finger-picked acoustic guitar and soft vocals give the track a truly bittersweet feeling.

The album’s sleek production manages to avoid the extremes of pared-down minimalism and overblown pomposity. ‘Diamonds’ and ‘Only Love’ manage to show off some real guitar skills without taking away from the energy of Howard’s vocal performance and lyrical ability. In general, it’s a nice cross between indie, rock and folk.

In a Nutshell: Sounds like José Gonzales mixed with John Mayer, without the narcissism. Good stuff.