It's very rare that a debut album arrives so fully formed, so technically brilliant, so modestly convinced of its own excellence. The Chancer is such a superb exhibition of modern soul that it's near-guaranteed to appeal both to the streetwise fans of the likes of Young Disciples and the more mainstream followers of Sade and Simply Red.
It would be easy to say the album's appeal lies mostly in the fabulous voice of singer Russell Nash. Sometimes sweet and breathy ("Just A Little Sign"), sometimes strained and troubled ("Time"), always articulate and unashamedly emotional, he clearly aims to match the deservedly iconic likes of Marvin Gaye and Curtis Mayfield. And, intelligently restrained and never over-indulgent, he does not fall far short. But, though Nash is without doubt a vocal superstar-in-waiting, his backing is vital.
Produced both by Nash (a multi-instrumentalist too) and programmer Steve "Tha 4orce" Ellington, this is a masterful mix of mournful strings, snappy contemporary beats, some unusually pretty acoustic guitars and a series of overlaid, overlapping backing vocals that are remarkable in their melody, harmony and poise.The Chancer is heartfelt and moving without being over-sentimental, considered without being patronising, smooth without ever becoming cloying and unarguably outstanding.