With every man and his dog seemingly climbing aboard the nu-folk bandwagon, it comes as something of a surprise that former fashion student Alan Pownall, who used to share a flat with the genre's leading purveyors, Mumford & Sons, should travel in the opposite direction for his debut album, True Love Stories. Indeed, its 12 self-penned tracks sound better suited to the Caribbean beachside than the trendy fashionista scene of his South West London hometown, even if the rather melancholic tales of lost and unrequited love are likely to dampen the mood slightly. Comparisons with Jack Johnson may be lazy, but they're unavoidable, particularly considering that Pownall's slightly gruff, soulful voice bears an uncanny resemblance to the laid-back troubadour, while the brass-tinged ska-pop of lead single "Chasing Time," acoustic chillout of opener "More or Less," and calypso-tinged "Life Worth Living" all sound like outtakes from In Between Dreams. While these sun-kissed ditties are pleasant enough, Pownall only begins to stand out from the crowd of permanently relaxed singer/songwriters when he deviates from the happy-go-lucky arrangements, as on the mournful string-laden lament "Colourful Day," the twinkling piano chords and somber melodies of closer "You Know," and the introspective "The Others," which succeeds in fulfilling his ambitions of wanting the album to sound like a "jazz festival in 1940s South of France." True Love Stories is a refreshingly candid listen suggesting that Pownall is one unlucky man when it comes to affairs of the heart, but it's just a shame that on the whole, its heard-it-all-before bland production doesn't come close to matching its raw emotion.
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AllMusic Review by Jon O'Brien