Teenage Londoner Tobias Earnshaw has had an extraordinary year or so, after being whisked off to the United States by former Free bassist Andy Fraser, when he was impressed by the talent of the 17 year old guitarist. In June he played alongside Fraser at the Isle of Wight Festival, apparently impressing the slightly soggy crowd into a standing ovation.

After promoting this debut release in the States, where he has gained nine Grammy nominations already, Tobi now has the UK in his sights and in September will be on the bill for a gig that also features Joe Satriani and the likes of Phil Campbell. The question is of course does the hype match the product – these days we are so often disappointed. Likened to John Mayer and Robin Thicke, Tobi is actually right in the middle of the two, with a smooth sound enriched by perfect guitar sweeps.

His first single Brighten Up My Day, is a typical slice of pop soul, sounding like Maxwell and Tony Rich with vocals as silky as the backing. Lyrically there are no surprises, with the songs dominated by romance and relationships, like references to “one smile away from your heart” (Halfway There) and “can’t stop thinking about you…makes it hard for me to sleep” (The Real Thing); but these predictable and generic lyrics are perhaps no surprise from someone so young.

The hardest thing for talented guitarists has always been making their own material strong enough to support their playing. It is something Joe Bonamassa has managed well in recent years, but others have struggled. Even John Mayer’s found he has angered fans by becoming more commercial and in some eyes, bland. Here Tobi’s slices of pop soul are beautifully polished and well produced but there is that one stunning song missing.

The likes of Nothing Gonna Stop Us, Here We Go and Need You Tonight all stick to the same formula and probably work better live, when less polished. But after listening to the nine tracks here you have to remind yourself that Tobi is only just legally able to drive in the UK, and to produce something as accomplished as this album at such an age is extraordinary. A burgeoning talent for sure, and a possible star. So keep an eye on the name Tobi in the coming years.

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