Adhering to the unwritten rule that every acoustic troubadour must record a break-up album, Jon Allen's second effort, Sweet Defeat, sees the Hampshire-born singer/songwriter pour his heart out on 11 intimate acoustic tracks which further develop the early-'70s Americana sound of his 2009 D.I.Y. word of mouth debut Dead Man's Suit. Blessed with a whiskey-soaked set of lungs, part Rod Stewart, part Kelly Jones, the Radio2 favorite doesn't need to do much to convince listeners of his bar-propping credentials, as evident on the Eagles-esque country-rock opener "Joanna," the steel guitar-led shuffling blues of "Lucky, I Guess," and the gentle melancholy of "Broken Town." But as heartfelt and melodic as the poignant, fingerpicking folk of "Last Orders," the Simon & Garfunkel-esque "Here Tonight," and the stripped-back guitar-twanging "Think of You" are, Allen only begins to set himself apart from the plethora of similar young British aficionados of retro West Coast rock when he pursues a sound closer to home. "Love's Made a Fool Out of Me" is a gorgeous slice of yearning, Paul McCartney-esque pop, which could well be an homage to the Beatle who founded the LIPA college Allen graduated from; "No One Gets Out of Here Alive" opens with some somber piano chords before turning into a ballsy and rousing nu-folk anthem: while the title track echoes the blue-eyed soul of James Morrison with its gospel backing vocals, swirling Hammond organs, and triumphant brass section. By unashamedly wearing its influences on its sleeve, Sweet Defeat often runs the risk of becoming nothing more than an authentic pastiche, but while it might not push any musical boundaries, it's still a charming and achingly honest affair which continues to position the U.K. as the unlikely current hotbed of Americana talent.
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AllMusic Review by Jon O'Brien