When he first made waves half a decade ago at 18, there was an air of novelty surrounding Jake Bugg, whose voice was stylishly worn-in without sounding as if he was a long-time chainsmoker. Bugg eventually broadened out his bluesy sound, even dabbling in Madchester-esque beats and poorly judged rap on his last album, On My One, backpedalling on comments he’d made rubbishing pop and hip-hop. Deviating from the formula didn’t do him any favours, however, and his third record was his lowest charting to date. And so on to Hearts That Strain, recorded in Nashville and featuring the Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach on guitar, in which Bugg firmly returns to troubadour-lite mode. How Soon the Dawn is Wichita Lineman-lite, while In the Event of My Demise combines folklore-like lyrics with a Radio 2 Drivetime chorus. Elsewhere, Waiting is a serviceable duet with Noah Cyrus (sister of Miley), that sounds like a Christmassy Unchained Melody, and Indigo Blue sees Bugg’s strange pronunciation of the colour distract from the song’s workaday dad-rock. Although he has, mercifully, put hip-hop to one side, this lacks the authenticity of a real raconteur.
Jake Bugg: Hearts That Strain review – a return to troubadour-lite form
Hannah J Davies
Hannah J Davies is the Guardian's deputy editor, newsletters, and a culture writer