Lewis & Leigh : First 3 EPs : Night Drives / Missing Years / Hidden TruthsAvailable from MusicGlue
Just as it may have been impossible not to warm to Georgia Ruth before hearing a note, when she referenced Van Morrisson's 'Astral Weeks' and Tim Buckley's 'Once I Was' as inspiration, Lewis & Leigh's own explicit influences, including Nashville Skyline era Dylan, Gillian Welch, Simon & Garfunkel and Crosby Stills, Nash and Young suggest solid foundations for whatever is to come.
Both established singer songwriters, with North Wales' Al Lewis working in both Welsh and English, they have come together, and found new confidence to explore a mutual love of Americana, at first glance from very different backgrounds, as London based Alva Leigh grew up on the Gulf coast of Mississippi.
Over the last eighteen months their initial three EPs have led to a successful Pledge Music campaign for a debut album, as well as a growing list of plaudits and live performances. All three EPs are accomplished, but in sequence they show a progression and a growing depth to their work together.
Their first release was the Night Drives EP [Release: 10.2014]. The first song What is there to Do has a Nashville sound that is elevated by Alva Leigh's exquisite vocal, and All Night Drive's gentle country rhythms, interwoven harmonies and vocals set out the duo's exceptional songwriting and compositional skills. Anchor Line starts with a guitar melody and then Alva's clear voice, joined by Al Lewis' initial harmony and the plaintive "all I want is to love somebody, and for it to be true" lyric. Simply a lovely song. This EP closes with Say You Miss Me with a more stripped down sound - voices, guitar and piano - and carries real emotion.
Then the Missing Years EP [Release: 2015] shifts things up a gear. Devil's in the Detail has a darkness in the echoing guitar line, and the writing fully carries the pain of a fracturing relationship evocatively in a song. Late Show has a midnight piano melody for a seemingly melancholy story about straying away from home "Why do I seek trouble when I am away from you, after dark I turn to someone new". The first EP was good, the second is absorbing until Rubble, which is another class apart. A distinct country lilt, and a tale that starts with the loss of a community church and then essays into the South Wales mines closing, bringing together their two backgrounds, finding painful commonality.
Finally and most recently the Hidden Truths EP [Release: 16.10.15], four songs again, effectively bookended by its two highlights: the opening dark swing of Heart Don't Want is perfect, animated country pop, whilst the delicacy of the ending cover of Country Comfort (Elton John / Bernie Taupin - original here) does what a cover should; taking the original and indubitably but subtly reinventing it.
They have arrived at sophisticated, emotive songwriting, using their two distinct voices then melting them in crafted harmonies to carve meaning in three or four minutes of song. Sometimes folk-pop, in places more country, a moment of late night jazz, an inflection of bluegrass; genre doesn't matter when there is this much quality. Just file under 'very good'.
LEWIS & LEIGH I Heart Don't Want