The crushed-velvet voice of Stuart Staples finds a near-perfect sonic setting on Leaving Songs, the British singer/songwriter’s best-realized offering since his departure from Tindersticks. Staples embraces American alt-country here, recording the album’s tracks in Nashville and enlisting Maria McKee for a duet on “The Road Is Long.” There’s a gritty barroom ambiance hanging over these tunes, suggestive of inebriated nights and painful morning-afters. But Staples doesn’t imitate country stereotypes as much as find his own version of honky-tonk balladry. “One More Time,” “This Old Town” and “That Leaving Feeling” move with an easy, melancholy flow that skirts the edges of old-school soul and European chanson. On “The Path,” Staples actually grooves, although with a downcast grace. He achieves an almost mystical glow on “Pulling In to the Sea” as he sings its yearning lines in a dusty murmur. The track arrangements are rich but understated, as burnished and evocative as the singer’s vocals.