The sophomore album from Britain's John McCullagh (formerly known as John Lennon McCullagh), 2015's New Born Cry finds the folkie singer/songwriter expanding his sound with his backing band the Escorts. Still a teenager when he was discovered by Creation Records founder Alan McGee, McCullagh has developed from a gifted songwriter with a youthfully exuberant style into a rootsy, literate melodicist. Where his debut, 2013's North South Divide, solely showcased an acoustic guitar-and-vocals approach to classicist British rock and folk, New Born Cry is a true band effort, replete with bombastic drums, bluesy harmonica, and twangy electric guitar flourishes. Produced by former La's bassist and Cast singer/songwriter John Power, New Born Cry works as a widescreen, technicolor version of North South Divide. Here, Power helps McCullagh flesh out the implied influences of his early solo acoustic work into full-bodied rock & roll productions. In that sense, although McCullagh still evinces such influences as Bob Dylan, Woody Guthrie, and Billy Bragg, cuts like the swaggering "Towerland Lullaby" and the sparkling "Division Street" bring to mind such stalwarts of British pop/rock as Oasis and Echo and the Bunnymen. Elsewhere, tracks like the yearning "Between the Lines" and the similarly poetic "Angel of the North" split the difference between the classicist style of Paul Weller and the more contemporary folk anthems of Mumford and Sons. However, fans of McCullagh's stripped-down acoustic beginnings will be pleased to find several cuts that simply showcase his intimate coffeehouse abilities. Ultimately, it's McCullagh's ability to balance earnest folkie emotion and crackling rock energy that gives New Born Cry such a distinctive sound.
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AllMusic Review by Matt Collar