Their third EP within just over year shows the incredible creativity of this fantastic Welsh/ American duo, Lewis & Leigh. It is really hard to say anything sensible about this EP as it is so good that I am a bit overwhelmed by my own enthusiasm. So let’s try to reason: The first song, “Country Comfort” is a quiet song with just a guitar and a piano. This lovely opener shows what those two can do with not much else than they use when they play live. It is full of appreciation for the nice and simple things of country life and reminds us of the hidden treasures in our lives.
The second song is an up-beat, full band plus brass song that underlines the topic of this EP, hidden truths. This song is like an exclamation to stop lying to yourself and instead to follow your heart. It starts all quiet, just with Alva’s sweet vocals, is then followed by Al’s smooth voice and then leads into the chorus that is first sung unisono – a great means to increase tension and variety. These two songs alone are so good and so different that they would have made a fantastic single by themselves. It wouldn’t be Lewis & Leigh however, if there wasn’t more to come: For me completely surprising, a proper upbeat country song follows, with a strong bass line, powerful drums and more brass!
This song is an absolute cracker…without closer attention it comes along as a cheerful country song with some romance in it but in fact it is nothing like that: The story telling in it is so touching and engaging and delivered in a sensationally adequate way: First it’s just him, Al, singing about how he had been delivered on a hospital door as a baby boy, then Alva tells the story from the young mum’s perspective that was too young and not allowed to raise her child herself. So they take turns in telling the story from each their perspectives. Later in life he goes searching for her and finds her. Their first conversation on her doorstep is then sung… you might have guessed it… together. Noone with a heart can not be in tears by now, can they? The thing is, there is no sentimentality about it at all. Remember, the whole sad story is delivered as a cheerful country song, with all the dynamics of youth and love of life in it, only interrupted by Alva’s solos. Some hidden truths are revealed in this story, for sure.
The final song is a smooth Sunday morning toetapper but of course plays with some hidden truths in it too: It is about a long forgotten romantic scene in a long term relationship that both partners wish would come back – it could be read as a reminder of the pleasures of a young and fresh love all the same. Needless to say: I can’t wait for a full length album.
With „Missing Years“ Lewis&Leigh have released their second EP that shows a fantastic progression from their already fabulous debut EP Late Night Drives. They seem to be even more confident with each other than on the predecessor. The songs are even more intriguing, as they discover the dark sides of life in a more daring way. The opener “Devil’s in the detail” lays open a long term relationship’s cold, the next song “Late Show” outlines the needs and fantasies of someone very lonely. Rubble turns out to be a tribute to a mining village in South Wales that is very moving. And again they chose to make their very own version of a song not written by themselves to finish their EP: Their amazing version of “Spies” from Coldplay goes right under your skin.
It is their harmonies that just work so well that every song enfolds in its best possible way. It is amazing how they synchronize their emphasis in their vocals so perfectly like e.g. in Late Show when they exclaim “Why don’t you go on and take me home?” Sound and instrumentation are excellent too: Beautiful electric guitar (Lewis) and subtle piano playing (Leigh) are accompanied by atmospheric brass sounds (in Late Show). There is great variation in their song writing – it’s inventive and diverse and I can’t wait for them to release a full album finally. Both of them are experienced songwriters and both their styles melt together into something extravagant, unique and absolutely wonderful.
A firework of musical ideas, a musical paradise of inventiveness and diversity in terms of arrangements and instrumentations: This is what I’d call Benjamin Folke Thomas’s second studio album, Rogue State of Mind. I called his song writing ingenious before when reviewing his debut album and again, each and every song is a masterpiece. But the true wonder of his art is more than that. It’s grounded on his devotion to give every song his full attention and invent a completely new idea of how it should sound and what it should express. Usually I quickly find one or two favourites on an album…impossible here. Every song has easily got the quality to be chosen as a single.
What they have in common is their search for meaning in this world. While the fantastic opener Break the Border starts all enthusiastic saying “I wanna do for you what you did for me” the final song Little too Late states “Let me tell you how the heart burns”. In between there is a bit of hope (Pauper to a King) and a lot of disappointment: “This body is a prison, my soul has escaped me…I’m gonna…dismiss all there was in this life so I can enter the next one clean” (Woman I love). Really good things just seem to happen in dreams: “The best thing I ever had was that dream of you that night” (Dream about you Baby) – even though lyrically as well as musically there is quite a bit of irony in this song. Words like these make you doubt their creator really is only in the middle of his twenties. Musically, Eric Clapton comes to mind (especially in the absolutely stunning Pauper to a King), also Bob Dylan, sometimes Bruce Springsteen. Musically as well as lyrically Benjamin Folke Thomas seems a lifetime ahead of himself.
The album is more direct, more honest, less metaphorical and even more passionate than the predecessor, the fabulous “Too close to Here”. It’s less a solo album and more a band album and yes, Benjamin Folke Thomas’ acclaimed band definitely has its share in the extraordinary quality of this album (Johannes Mattsson, bass; Jonas Abrahamsson, drums). Yet it’s first and foremost Henning Sernhede (electric guitar, mandolin, lap steel guitar) who leaves his footprint on this album. A sought-after guitarist in his home country Sweden he adds his special note to almost every song. He adjusts completely to the respective soul of the song and plays his solos either dirty and rough like in Dream about you Baby, playful like in Pauper to a King or emotional like in Little too Late. Benjamin Folke Thomas’ excellent acoustic guitar skills don’t get displayed as much on this album as on the former one but it’s his diverse vocal abilities that enfold. In songs like Bulletproof, Broke down Train and Married he sings with a warm and soft baritone voice and sometimes uses his head voice whereas he sounds wild and powerful in other songs, sometimes angry (like in Futile Blues), sometimes desperate (like in Little too Late) or euphoric (like in Breaking Borders) – always interesting and fascinating.
The sound of this album is excellent. A great variety of additional instruments like organ, piano or saxophone as well as a great choice of backing vocals sung by different singers (i.e. Hanna Sernhede, Linnea Eketrä and Stina Grape) make the album as colourful and entertaining as it is. The richness of sound doesn’t affect its transparency so one can hear every line of every instrument clearly which is good as we are offered many little musical surprises that would get lost otherwise. The album has been recorded in the band’s own studio in Almedal, produced by the Swedish Folk Maffia and mixed and mastered by the band’s own Johannes Mattsson and Henning Sernhede.