Anyone who has seen Tom Blackwell perform in one of the small, forgotten venues across the North of England he has haunted for over a decade will have witnessed a truly sublime singer-songwriter distilling his blues, folk, soul and gospel influences into what Bob Harris has rightly described as, 'Wonderful, heartfelt music'.
In 2018 Blackwell released the first of his Memphis series of albums. The new recordings are minimal, unadorned. There is nothing wasted or unnecessary cluttering the sound, just emotive vocals framed by quiet guitar and harmonica.
The essence of everything Blackwell does is in his singing voice - as plaintive and soulful an instrument as you could hope to hear. On stage he may punctuate with mournful harmonica and emphasise with expressive guitar, but it is the vocal that is the heart-rending centre of his art.
His lyrics are elemental, relying on natural metaphor and spare phrasing to render their stories; the resultant music has the close intimacy of The Cowboy Junkies, whilst Blackwell's voice has the emotional heft of Gavin Clark.
Blackwell sings his songs as if he is living them. Authentic songs that feel as if they are coming to you rolling across the plains and through dusty mid-Western streets. Songs that present all the emotional texture and depth of classic Americana - telling stories of bruised hopes, and fragmented settlements between yearning and loss - yet in a distinct, English voice.
Honest, without artifice, Blackwell's music just is what it is, and that is something genuinely remarkable.