Nameless Path

Marcus Foster

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Nameless Path Review

by Jon O'Brien

Released through Communion, the label spawned from the club night founded by Mumford & Sons, one would expect 24-year-old London troubadour Marcus Foster's debut album, Nameless Path, to be of a similar ilk as the tweed waistcoat brigade. But other than the slow-building lovelorn balladry of "You My Love" and the shuffling fingerpicking acoustics of "I Belong Here," there's little among its emotive 12 tracks that recalls the rousing anthemic sound of nu folk's most famous exponents. Instead, the album revels in a whiskey-soaked Americana sound, more akin to the likes of Tom Waits and Neil Young than anyone of his own generation, no more so than on the opening trio of "Old Birch Tree," a rather emphatic slice of electric barroom blues interrupted by a boogie-woogie breakdown, the quietly intense "Shadows of the City," which starts out as an eerie mandolin-led number before bursting into life with a gospel-tinged finale, and the murky blues-rock of "Faint Stir of Madness." Of course, British singer/songwriters attempting to sound like they're from the Deep South is nothing new (see Delta Maid, Neville Skelly, and Ben Ottewell this year alone), but Foster's raspy grizzled tones and heartfelt lyrics, which largely steer clear of clich├ęs, provide an authenticity that temporarily makes you forget he's just another middle-class Londoner with a guitar. Indeed, the album is much less successful when it veers away from this well-trodden path. The brassy soul-pop of "The Room," bizarrely concluded by a vaudeville-style instrumental, sounds like an outtake from The Commitments, the angst-ridden balladry of "I Was Broken" ventures a little too close to sulky teenage bedroom territory, while the sprawling nine-minute epic "Movement" is an unashamed retread of "Hey Jude" whose singalong qualities sit at odds against the album's predominantly introspective nature. Nameless Path is unarguably too derivative to live up to its rather intriguing "unchartered waters" title, but it's still an honest and ultimately encouraging debut from an artist who is unlikely to remain under the radar for too long.

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