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Greg HancockGreg Hancock
Album: A303
Label: Self Released
Tracks: 12

If you've had anything to do with live music in Exeter, chances are that you have crossed paths with Greg Hancock. The man behind Exeter's Secret Gigs, Greg is a great supporter of the music scene both as performer and producer, so it's great to see him release his first album. Naturally with his great connections, Greg has managed to line up a few friends to join him on the record, almost too many to fit on the album sleeve. Regular collaborator Jo Hooper is unsurprisingly present, alongside rising star Sharon Lazibyrd, John Gallagher, and George Arnold (to name but a few).

Greg has a wonderful languid style, especially in the vocal performance which is like a hot chocolate on a winter's day - warm, comforting and very moreish. The A303 is a road close to his heart, featuring heavily throughout his life, and it's an apt name for the album. A lot of the songs are at least partially autobiographical, which give them a quiet power. This is especially true on the standout track, 12, about his somewhat difficult relationship with his father. It's an incredibly moving song, full of emotion and sadness.

The other highlights include An Arbitrary Line / Out Or In, which stemmed from an evening performing in a folk club where some of the audience didn't feel his brand of music was folk enough. The Longest Night is an attempt at a song with a singalong chorus, but typically is far more than a throwaway track. Butter Side Down tackles how humanity has explained the unexplainable, and Fremington Beach is about a cairn built by a family on the beach.

As an album, A303 is not unlike the titular road - it's a great journey that is going to take you to some wonderful places. It's also one of the strongest debuts I've heard in a long time, and deciding which songs to feature prominently in the review was very difficult. Greg has a wonderful lightness of touch and tone, which is complimented perfectly by the talented group of musicians that support him throughout the album. Lyrics, vocals and melodies are all near perfect, and the intricate guitar work is at times truly breath-taking. It's certainly top of my list for best debut album of the year, and it is going to take something very special indeed to knock it off its perch.

Adam Jenkins