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John Stammers John Stammers
Album: Waiting Around
Label: Wonderful Sound
Tracks: 8

If there's a group of people steeped in the art of patience it's fans of John Stammers who've had to wait a full six (count 'em!) years since his self-titled debut - a beautifully produced vinyl-only release limited to just 300 copies and not one of them touched by anything even remotely digital - for this sophomore album. Quite why the self-styled melodic craftsman from the Manchester suburb of Chorlton (it's the Laurel Canyon of the North don'cha know?!) has chosen this instant in which to share with us eight further dispatches from his soul is not exactly clear and it's probably not even relevant, although it might be worth relishing the moment given its gestation period.

Anyway, as with its predecessor the songs are exquisitely rendered, lovingly laid out before our ears and wrapped in an aura that mesmerises from the first of the album's 33 minutes to the last. Stammers is not shy about inviting comparisons to Nick Drake, but they are richly deserved and not simply lazy shorthand for introspective acoustic singer songwriter-y.

Musically, Stammers paints from a broad palette that encompasses baroque pop, calypso, the sound of hot jazz era 78s and Renaissance church music as readily as classic folk-rock, slipped dub plates and the sound of the souk.

The title track opens proceedings with a woozy, hazy, slightly phased waft of pastoral pop that conjures a quietly bucolic sense of suggested temptation even within the dense heat of the city. Woman is a touching paean to fiancée Yasmin, while Stepping Round Her Clothes recalls those sweet moments when romance has yet to settle into routine and Miss Valentine dribbles steel guitar across a melody that channels Roy Orbison with pride. Risky Flowers plumbs deeper, darker slices of life but even there Stammers manages to find a source of hope.

As steadfast as the singer's vision no doubt is, an album this well realised is the result of careful collaboration and producers Jim Spencer (The Charlatans, Bert Jansch), Miles Copeland (Superimposers) and Dan Munslow (Monks Kitchen, Luca Nieri) deserve special mention as do Nancy Elizabeth for the Celtic harp and swoonsome vocals and Ben Dumville of Alfie for the trumpet.

Waiting Around is a thing of rare beauty, the kind of release that demands to heard properly and turned over halfway through… although for those who prefer things easy there's some digital witchcraft (well, a CD and download) available.

Nick Churchill