Back in 2006 while Messers Blunt, Morrison and Nutini were making pop-folk fashionable, another group of apparently similar singer-songwriters like Tom Baxter, Teddy Thompson and Scott Matthews were serving up more intriguing, brooding fare.
Matthews' debut, 'Passing Stranger', passed most people by, but it was an intriguing, varied collection that took in ragged sitar-blues jams and melancholic twilight acoustica. Calling to mind Jeff Buckley's jazzy vocal flourishes and Bert Jansch's complex plucked guitar lines, it nevertheless felt deeply personal and largely untouched by outside influences.
Tonight in support of second album 'Elsewhere', he treats us to a solo set played in intimate and rangy style. The hushed title track sees Matthews' guitar and his molasses-thick voice wrap potently like ivy round each other. The delicate '12 Harps', which features Robert Plant on the album (though "minus some dude" tonight sadly), is worthy of Led Zep's more floral, Eastern-tinged moments. But at times the new songs feel less blessed with his earlier flair; 'Jagged Melody' and 'Up On The Hill', despite offering up more with repeated listens, here prove a little colourless to really impress.
Dropping in tracks from the first album reminds us of what made it such an alluring and slyly memorable set. Its highlight, 'Elusive', a bleary-eyed 5am epiphany, tugs keenly at the heart-strings, while set-closer 'Earth To Calm' is bluesy, heady, Matthews little more than mumbling its words. His dexterity on the guitar also means he finds fresh new routes round his material. 'Dream Song' is transposed to a slow country stumble on a rattly old acoustic, 'Sweet Scented Figure' becomes a bluesy slide scrawl in the verses, a quietly introspective reverie in its plucked chorus.
For those here at the Bloomsbury, tonight was always going to be an unconditional joy. For anyone else, once under his intoxicating charm, his soporific, quixotic folk offers up much to take away.