- Having ditched the teeny bopper punk-pop of Busted for the more credible, post-hardcore rock of Fightstar, Charlie Simpson's chameleon-like career veers off in yet another direction for his debut solo album, Young Pilgrim which, as its tweed waistcoat, acoustic guitar, and countryside front cover suggests, unashamedly jumps aboard the nu-folk bandwagon. Indeed, despite protestations that its 12 tracks are inspired by the Jackson Browne, Beach Boys, and Crosby, Stills & Nash records his father used to play on family car journeys, it's hard to shake the feeling that this record wouldn't have come to fruition had it not been for the success of Mumford and Sons, particularly on the likes of the rousing lead single "Down Down Down" and the shuffling percussion and four-part harmonies of "All at Once." Nevertheless, Simpson's world-weary, whiskey-soaked vocals, which have always belied his tender years, are more equipped than most to deal with the luscious string arrangements, warm acoustics, and relationship-fueled tales of regret, while Coldplay producer Danton Supple provides enough anthemic spark to ensure the likes of "Parachutes" and "Suburbs" will go off like a storm at his next festival set. As convincing as these forays into foot-stomping territory are, it's only on the final third, when Simpson embraces his troubadour leanings, that the album comes onto its own. "Sundown" is an achingly honest, low-key ballad worthy of sitting alongside anything from Bon Iver's back catalog, the steel pedal guitars and harmonica solos on "Farmer and His Gun" serve up an authentic stab at wistful alt-country, while "If I Lose It," a collaboration with Snow Patrol songwriter Iain Archer, is a gorgeous slice of acoustic melancholy reminiscent of The Bends-era Radiohead. It's hard to determine whether Young Pilgrim showcases the real Simpson, but whatever the motives behind it, it's a surprisingly effortless transition to the folk-pop scene which suggests he's capable of turning his hand to any genre he chooses. ~ Jon O'Brien
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