Newton Faulkner 

Newton Faulkner
Radio Radio
Wednesday, Jan. 16, free, 21+

Sporting a heavy head of dreads, Newton Faulkner looks more like a late ’70s Toots and the Maytals roadie than a breezy guitar maestro hyped as the “next big thing” on the college rock circuit. Come to think of it, not much about Faulkner — who’s playing a free show at Radio Radio tonight — seems to make much sense. For starters, he just turned 23 and can already play guitar and sing at the same level as far more seasoned artists like Dave Matthews, P.F. Sloan and Freedy Johnston. He’s also been called an “instant surfer icon,” but doesn’t surf a lick. Go figure.

Despite the fact that his debut album, Hand Built by Robots, has yet to see a Stateside release, Faulkner has already earned a modest fanbase in the U.S. So it goes to reason that, given a proper domestic release, Faulkner could become the same kind of sensation in the States that he already is in the U.K. Surfer-types in California, for example, are already begging for Faulkner — whose music is most often compared to that of surfer-turned-rocker Jack Johnson — to play their shores.

Stores on the West Coast regularly stock high-dollar import copies of Hand Built by Robots, a hippie-friendly recording that brings to mind a wide range of artists, including Crosby, Stills and Nash, Matt Nathanson, the aforementioned Johnson, Cat Stevens and Matt Costa. It’s a long, sprawling album full of percussive plucking, memorable lyrics, sweet vocals and hooks made for quoting.

Still a bit wet-behind-the-ears, the ever-friendly Faulkner made the rounds in 2007, trading autographs with Jimmy Page, playing an average of four shows per week, collecting sparkling album reviews and making a name for himself as a charming, unusually mature performer.

With his name already on the lips of U.S. critics and promoters, don’t be surprised if Faulkner is one of 2008’s break-out artists. That said, you also shouldn’t be surprised if this is the last chance you’ll get to see him play an intimate venue like Radio Radio.

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