Scott singer/songwriter Paolo Nutini 's 2006 debut album was comprised of songs all written before his 18th birthday. He stood out from his confessional songwriting peers because of his unusual depth, canny melodic sensibility, and taut --yet homemade production. His singles, "New Shoes," and "Jenny Don't Be Hasty," were wrapped in rock & roll classicism and bore the attitude of Dion's "Teenager in Love" and the romanticism of Jonathan Richman's "That Summer Feeling." With Sunny Side Up, his sophomore effort, Nutini jumps forward. Not only has he moved has his musical vocalbulary broadened, his lyrics have grown somewhat more sophisticated. With the help of Ethan Johns, Nutini has taken huge chunks of America's (and Scotland's) pop and folk pasts and reshaped them. Nutini recorded and produced the original sessions himself with his band the Vipers -- Donny Little, Mike McCaid, Dave Nelson, Seamus Simon, Gavin Fitzjohn, and Fraser Speirs -- and Johns added some production details and did a load of mixing. In addition, there are guests, including a string quartet, the legendary Rico Rodriguez of the Skatalites and Specials, and ?uestlove of the Roots helps out on the album opener "10/10." Though not a single, it is one of the grandest moments here: a ska heavy soul beat with blazing brass is laid down, as Nutini delivers a brazen vocal. Its lyric captures the solid swaggering joy and braggadocio of the street with a melody that screams "party time." "Coming Up Easy," is one of the set's featured tracks and as such, with its soulful Memphis-style Hammond B-3, Duck Dunn-style bassline, and fat horns by Fitzjohn, is a killer breakup track, but with a lyric that could have been written by Nick Drake. The actual first single is "Candy," which opens with an Omnichord by Johns. This one feels a lot like John Martyn. It's not an ape, but since both were Scotsmen, the lineage is there, and both borrowed from American blues and folk heritages as well as Celtic roots. Acoustic guitars fall like rain around Nutini's brogue. It's a pop love song without an ounce of sap. Sunny Side Up embraces Scottish folk ("Tricks of the Trade,"and "Worried Man"), swing jazz ("Pencil Full of Lead"), early rock and doo wop ("No Other Way"), calypso soul ("High Hopes"), skiffle ("Simple Things"), and even late-'30s style crooning ("Keep Rolling"). All of these stylistic indulgences could have turned up an albumof songs that were longer on style than substance. That's not the case; it's almost unbelievably sophisticated, flows easily, and feels whole, finished. This one wise beyond this songwriter's years, leaves his own previous identity as a bedroom balladeer to history.
AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek