He (Al Lewis) is from Wales, she (Ava Leigh) is from Mississippi and, following a series of EPs and two nominations at the inaugural UK Americana Awards, this is their debut album. The a cappella two part harmony intro to 'There Is A Light' instantly tells you you're in for something special, the song built around the idea of home, specifically referencing her bayou family home and is grandfather's farmhouse as a subtle keyboard drone, drum beat and tambourine slowly enter the fabric. Their hometowns also inform 'Rubble', another minimally arranged number that, gradually opening up into a bass drum led rhythm, addresses the closure of the South Wales mining industry and post Katrina Mississippi, but, rather than dwelling on the tragedies, talks of rebuilding and moving forward.
The title track of sorts, 'Keep Your Ghost' is a bayou bluesy tribal beat groove centered around how what you learn about people after their death may not always fit with how you remember them, and how those memories may be what you prefer. Although the thematic content is different, the feel put me in mind of Ben Glover and Gretchen Peters' 'Blackbird'. The same holds true of the equally Southern blues coloured 'Piece of Gold', whereas, on the more dusty country flavoured mid-tempo 'Heart Don't Want', they come across like the Everlys circa 'Songs Our Daddy Taught Us'.
At some point most albums in the genre will have a failing relationship song, and theirs comes with the brooding 'Devil's In The Details' with Leigh taking the lead vocals, the theme spilling over into 'Heartbeat', a stripped down number with organ drone, stick percussion, synth hiss skewed time signature and whispery vocals that suggests a sort of trip hop Americana.
Things shift again for the lost in the daily grind and regrets of the strummed acoustic 'Losing Time', Lewis on lead vocal, a 60s pop sensibility evident on the descending scale chorus, before, all too soon, they close up with the dreamy romantic acoustic duet 'Whiskey & Wine'. It seems inevitable that, as well as the Glover/Peters comparisons, they're going to be tagged by many as the new Civil Wars, but, while they may well mirror their Grammy success, there's far more to them than Joy and John, and hopefully they'll be around for longer too.
|Alma: Varieties||Jackie Oates & Megan Henwood: Wings|
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