Tom McRae & The Standing Band - Did I Sleep And Miss The Border
Fifteen years on from a debut that earned Brit and Mercury nominations, Tom McRae is an enduring outsider. The son of Christian missionaries, this songwriter from Essex decamped to the US a decade ago and is now based in France (he enjoys a loyal European following). McRae's seventh album has a fire and brimstone flavour, and in his mid-forties he's acquired the malevolent eloquence of Tom Waits and Nick Cave. On 'The High Life', he sings in a conspiratorial whisper over a rackety rhythm, while the majestic 'Americana of Christmas Eve, 1943' has him hoping for "one last shot of whisky, one last shot of lead" before descending to hell. 'We Are the Mark' is even better - an apocalyptic protest tune with strings. Middle age and exile have only sharpened his songwriting.