“A sunny day in Manchester – cause for celebration!” Tom Hickox says with a knowing smile, connecting with his audience before a single note is struck. While the content of his songs are not always celebratory, the quality of them is certainly worth cherishing.

Pitching a look somewhere between Guy Garvey and Rhys Ifans, Hickox politely creeps through the back room of The Castle accompanied by multi-instrumentalist Justin Quinn. The pair are here to promote Hickox’s debut album War, Peace & Diplomacy which, despite some impressive reviews (including five stars in The Telegraph), has yet to prick the public’s consciousness. If his peculiar surname seems familiar, then that is because he is the son of celebrated British conductor and Grammy winner Richard Hickox.

Opening with ‘The Angel Of The North’, the former Manchester University student silences the room with his beautiful baritone voice. Warm and moving, Hickox’s crooning is nothing short of delightful. This would count for little without worthy songs, which thankfully are offered in abundance. His finest piece, ‘Out Of The Warzone’, (a song which northern troubadour Richard Hawley originally played guitar) is earnest songwriting at its best.

Particularly impressive is the ability of the men on stage to replicate the album’s louder moments, never more so than on the Nick Cave-esque ‘White Roses Red. The pair create an emphatic sound capable of filling a warehouse, let alone The Castle.

With War, Peace & Diplomacy consisting of just nine songs, the set is extended with genuinely interesting anecdotes. ‘The Lisbon Maru’ takes on extra poignancy with Hickox explaining the origins of the song – a tale of a chatty homeless man deemed a nuisance until a broadsheet journalist finds his ramblings about surviving a sunken World War II ship are found to be true and his heroism is restored.

Comparisons with great artists do not faze the Londoner; in fact it is actively encouraged with reliable covers of PJ Harvey (‘On Battleship Hill’) and Eels (‘Railroad Man’). It is testament to Hickox’s ability as both a singer and a songwriter that these songs seamlessly bed into the set.

Hickox stands up for his last hurrah, a moving rendition of Roberta Flack’s ‘The First Time I Saw Your Face’. Rapturous applause follows and, with any justice, a huge audience awaits the best new songwriter in Britain.

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Joseph Curran

Features Editor and gig reviewer