Then and now: 1968: A bright young star named Nick Drake is discovered by legendary producer Joe Boyd; his debut album, Bryter Later, is released by Island Records a year later. 2006: A bright young star named Scott Matthews signs to Island and releases his debut album, Passing Strangers. “As a label, it says everything to me about what I want to do with my music,” says the wonderboy from Wolverhampton. “Nick Drake, John Martyn, Bob Marley, PJ Harvey – there’s just a great mix of artists who’ve been on Island.” Listen to such songs as Sweet Scented Figure, Earth to Calm, Eyes Wider Than Before and Dream Song, and you might think that Drake has come back from the dead to make his long-awaited third album, with Led Zeppelin, Ravi Shankar and The Spiders from Mars as his backing band. Bluesy slide guitars, folksy 12-strings, tablas, cellos and accordions create an acoustic storm and whip up the spirits of English folk and rock from the 1960s and 1970s. Black country boy: While counting Nick Drake and John Martyn as heroes, young Scott was also heavily influenced by Robert Plant, who hailed from nearby West Brom. Scott got his first guitar at seven and his first electric at 11. He laughs now at his early attempts to play lead guitar. “I thought I was John Frusciante – then I woke up.” His awakening brought him to a world of tuneful, poetic folk-rock, and he was soon writing his own heartfelt songs and playing gigs around the midlands. He also handed out his self-made demos, prompting two local entrepreneurs to form a record label, San Remo, to release Scott’s debut album, Passing Stranger. The album caught the interest of major labels, and when Scott played a gig at the 12 Bar Club in London last spring, the execs were there with chequebooks. Matthews, as modest and self- effacing as Drake, ignored the offers of big advances and went for the label that was once home to his biggest hero. Tablas turn: While recording Passing Strangers at Molesley in Birmingham, Scott needed a tabla sound. His inquiries led him to Sukhvinder Singh Namdhari, who jammed along for a few hours, veering between loose grooves and precise dynamics. “He just blew us away,” says Scott. “Who’d have thought you could get so many ideas out of a drum?” Namdhari nailed down a number of superb tabla tracks, but it was only after he left that Scott discovered that he used to be in the Ravi Shankar Orchestra, and had played with such greats as Ry Cooder. Hello strangers: Island re-released Passing Strangers in autumn, and Today FM’s Tom Dunne immediately made it his album of the month. Dave Grohl was so impressed he drafted Scott in as a support act to Foo Fighters, and BBC Radio jocks Zane Lowe, Mark Radcliff and Jo Whiley have been spinning his singles, Elusive and Dream Song.