A mysterious and virtuous guitarist is rescued and delivered by a nice, country girl, with sweet ‘n’ secret desires of her own…
Is this the story of BUCKINGHAM NICKS, 1970? Oh, no! This fable is set much closer to home and in present day: It’s the musical folk-tale of London based LETHBRIDGE OWEN circa 2019.
Jimmy Owen, a synesthetic musician, and Kelly Lethbridge, a talented vocalist, began to work, write and synchronize together in Brighton 2007-8 while studying for BIMM degree courses. The guitarist discovered the chanteuse singing an Audioslave song in front of a capacity audience at Brighton’s biggest venue.
Their expressive sounds are designed to provide relief and release from everyday hardships. The songs take listeners on an emotional journey. “Nothing is better than sharing our feelings and getting fans to feel good about themselves,” says Kelly.
Writing songs is an organic adventure for the duo — Kelly brings lyrics and vocal improvisation, while Jimmy uses sophisticated techniques and impeccable guitar tricks. The songs, created with love, shine with lucid harmony. Kelly usually plays a central role and brings emotional fragility to the pieces, while Jimmy: “Thinks about the core and the spaces…”
And with a couple of top-notch musicians to support their ambitions, their chemistry at the moment is truly captivating. Lethbridge Owen hope to bring their “West-Coast neo-folk” to music fans everywhere.
Their self-financed album titled “Mind over Matter” is due 5 April 2019.
“All We Have is Hope” is an uptempo, bubbling cascade with rustic flourishes and some delicious velvet and plum-wine vocals. It’s so cheerful and buoyant that you can almost smell the wet savannas and watch how the snakes and leeches slide from the banks and into the cold waters of the bayou.
Thus, rendered defenseless by the beauty of the sounds, you do not immediately notice the deepest nuance; The sense of fallibility and diminution. And soon you realize this is a song about erosion… a song of weathering and crumbling, of grinding-down, a song about the truth of relationships. So when Kelly (almost) whispers: “I keep my dreams dear to me...” we are reminded that, in life, the tides run high and then they run low… and sometimes familiar shorelines simply fade away.
“Back to the Blue” has flavorsome guitar chops from Jimmy and some supremely sweet, high-kiting and slightly jazzy vocals from Kelly that reminded us of the artistry of Martina McBride. The greasy licks of guitar give this a sense of debauchery… but otherwise this is as clean, wholesome and grace-filled as Olivia Newton-John’s smile.
“Re-Inspire” will attract the Black and Blue era Stones‘ fans who love jazzy sweetness mixed with gurgling guitars. Of course, this song proudly flaunts a voice that’s reminiscent of Christine McVie…the smoky lows and the extraordinary highs. It’s a complex and incredibly well-assembled number and is perhaps a little less sentimental than other offerings on this impressive album.
“Taking Over Me” perfectly encapsulates the California Sound. You sense the open space, the freedom and the sunshine right from the first notes. The surfing rhythms hit the bay-side as regular as knocks from bobbing sloops, and guitars buzz and frolic overhead, like sea birds spinning in clear blue air. And just as you begin to think this is a set of sun-drenched clichés, darkness manifests itself. (Like it does so often on this brilliant LP.) And you find that, actually, this is a song about regret and resolution. Of losing one’s grip on the best thing you ever had and dealing with the loss. Of overcoming your own squander and finding something fresh to love. So, like the California sun, this song reminds us that all our desires eventually sink into the ocean. Frightened away by hopes that were always too high.
“Two Steps Forward” is one of the fan favorites at live shows. It’s a fast-talking, hope-filled and jubilantly optimistic chant with punchy energy and filled with slogan and slog. It’s no surprise it’s a fave… it’s less introspective than the others…
If you are a fan of Connie Smith and Linda Ronstadt and you like the idea of having that kind of soulful, countrified voice accompanied by a Lindsey Buckingham type performer… you’re gonna love this. The comparisons will obviously be made between Lethbridge Owen and Buckingham Nicks. But they really don’t work… If anything, Kelly is closer to McVie in sound and erudition…
And maybe (the heavy-duty rock ‘n’ roll heads) will ask: Is the world ready for a return to the middle of the road? Do we want to go back to contemporary adult, soft rock? Well, let’s lay out the facts — this album is filled with musical quality, melodic intelligence and celestial harmony. What’s the problem with that?
We might have come a long way… but guess what? Maybe now, more than ever, we need beautiful and thoughtful music in our lives. Easy listening? Yes, why not? Why has everything got to be so damned difficult?
* 5 STARS *
Words: @neilmach 2019 ©