Warren Love Band: Warren Love Band (Elite)

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Warren Love Band: Autographed Picture of Jesus
Warren Love Band: Warren Love Band (Elite)

Former busker Love leaped straight into the foreground of New Zealand music on the strength of this impressive album released a year ago: it is drawn to your attention now because the singer-songwriter is one of the three finalists for a Tui award in the country music awards to be held in June*. If there's any justice . . .

Love's voice is languid, measured and gets deep inside the lyrics, and at times he has the same kind of easy appeal of Jimmy Buffett, at others something much darker comes through like a more mellow Tom Russell. Add to that the excellent originals -- between which John Prine's Aimless Love and Keiran Kane's In A Town This Size fit seamlessly -- plus the superb backing from Wellington musicians who seems entirely in harmony with the project, and warm production by Clinton Brown (of the Warratahs) and you have an album that should be a Kiwi classic.

It also stands the equal of anything similar from the States, where its emotional heart is. The standout here -- although it is hard to choose one -- is the sentimental Autographed Picture of Jesus written by locals Kevin Byrt and Barry Hennessey.

There is a lazy Tex-Mex touch in places, a gentle groove and . . . Oh, let's leave it at that. This is terrific.

* As it happened, justice wasn't served as I would have liked it, but no matter. This is still a great album.

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