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On 2013's Big Inner, Matthew E. White distilled the diverse ingredients of funk, country, soul, gospel and pysch-rock into such a heady and astonishing record that it was difficult to imagine a follow up of equal value.

The roots of that exceptional first album lay in the Richmond, VA singer-songwriter's soothing voice and solid backline, holding firm against a swirl of uplifting tender percussion, golden backing vocals and delicate brass.

It's tender, homely and welcoming, albeit occasionally surprising with a cosmic digression or two; a sort of musical embodiment of that famed Southern hospitality, or even a transmutation of White's evangelical Christian beliefs set on warming listeners from within.

It's perhaps reassuring then, that Fresh Blood walks a familiar territory and is essentially a continuation of the jazz bandleader, arranger and engineer's exploration of songcraft.

At the centre sits the voice of the man himself; molasses-thick, low and soothing, gliding from a gruff whisper in 'Circle 'Round The Sun' to slightly urgent exhortations on 'Feeling Good Is Good Enough'.

There are occasions where White's fathoms-deep vocals render lyrics barely audible over the swell of backing vocals and instruments but these rarely detract from the mesmerising flow of songs like 'Tranquillity' or the outstanding Burt Bacharach-meets-John Grant arrangement on 'Golden Robes'.

The clearest words on Fresh Blood are often the weightiest. Themes of love, peace and rock and roll aside, examples of the singer's relationship with religion are scattered on couplets throughout the record, such as "Wrap your arms around me Jesus / Move the wind across the sea / in the morning when the sun is up / I keep your company."

The impact of White's other interests are felt throughout the album; on the boogie-woogie saunter of 'Rock & Roll Is Cold', the jilting piano-led drama of 'Fruit Trees' and worship funk-rocker track 'Vision'.

Those mantra-filled slow burning songs prevalent on the first album have made way for a more succinct and polished approach to tracks on this second album - perhaps an effort on White's part to broaden the appeal of his country-soul.

It works too, producing a slice of Americana reimagined for the Father John Misty, Bon Iver and Midlake generation, imbued with soul sensitivities and aglow with sounds old and new. A true musical blessing, extraordinary stuff.

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