Lethbridge Owen sets Mind Over Matter

First of all, let me dispel any thoughts of Doctor Who…that was Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart…this is a very different sonic (screwdriver) experience! If you aren’t familiar with this accomplished duo of vocalist Kelly Lethbridge and guitar and vocalist Jimmy Owen, then I promise that very soon everyone will. Although London based, they met in 2007 in Brighton while studying there. Their stated influences are many and varied and include Fleetwood Mac, John Meyer, Heart, Lesley Duncan, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Bonnie Raitt, Cream, Led Zeppelin, Trucks Tedeschi, James Taylor, Carole King, Joni Mitchell, Paul Simon, Pink Floyd and many more and yet, to my ear, that list doesn’t paint the full picture. This debut album is rock, blues and folk in an intoxicating mix that only weakens, in my view, when they go too far to the fluffy Mac line-up sounds…but if you prefer fluffy to Green then you will be well pleased. They have been quoted as calling their music “West coast neo-folk”…I don’t pretend to understand that but do not be put off; the duo and a backing band of sheer class make this a varied menu that will fit many tastes and cannot and should not be pigeonholed in any genre. As Lethbridge Owen sets Mind Over Matter on their debut.

On to the music then and an opener, All We Have Is Hope, that is light and folky but filled with shimmering vocals and an upbeat melody that takes you with it whatever your proclivities. Immediately you appreciate the crystal vocals and some seriously proficient acoustic guitar phrasing combining to, whatever your mood, to agree whole-heartedly with the title and then an equally harmonious electric solo. It also appears as the closing track encapsulating the hope in a neat seventy-seven seconds of acoustic harmony. Back To The Blue is all about clever, funky blues with a hint of jazz in its riff and fills, while Kelly reflects that feel in a magical vocal melody. The guitar solo is pure genius as Jimmy wrings the neck of the electric with a sting; controlled fretwork that is too short but still finds time to fit in some runs that lift the song to the next level. The Great Healer keeps the blues and funk with a neat riff that grabs you and, with Jimmy doing an admirable job on vocals as he delivers the chorus that will resonate with us all…“They say time is the great healer, but the day’s still drift away, and I can’t say it’s getting easier, with these thoughts like hurricanes.” Another too short rapid-fire phrased electric not quite solo promises much but unfortunately doesn’t reappear. Re-Inspire is next and the Mac influence is apparent but has an edge of the Stones to it so that the strong, ingenious riff and vocal melodies aren’t diluted. The guitar geek/freak in me is again tantalised with a couple of runs of wizardry that last for a few seconds and promised so much…I bet Jimmy lets fly when on stage and that will be something to see and hear. Fight For You moves into the mid-Atlantic for a sort of Tom Petty background and has shared vocal phrasing…it’s canny enough but becomes exceptional when at last we get a real solo. It goes from quiet to raucous and makes me rejoice. Leaving Home is the closest to folk with the jangling acoustic and the fiddle and yet they still manage to keep me in their thrall as the complex backing and melodies en-trance and then the arpeggio electric guitar transforms it to a sort of orchestral ethos and even the fiddle outro works for me. From Now On is an object lesson in acoustic guitar and the vocal/guitar duet is not as corny as it sounds and adds texture to the complex chord picking…a stunning piece that is so far from my normal fare it’s on its way back; it may even evoke the odd shudder as the occasional Enya echo may rear its unwelcome head…and yet I still love it. If Only stays acoustic and repeats the lesson for people like me at least…it’s a sort of confessional on someone’s part but could apply to the many too. The lines that stuck were “Deep thinker, light sleeper, I’m climbing those walls, in the end I’ll awake, and like a leaf I fall.” There is the added benefit of some exquisite acoustic playing and the honesty of calluses dragging on the wound strings only make it more real. Taking Over Me is back to electric over acoustic and harks back to the Mac style…and if I can get away with this; a damn sight better! The guitar has a short solo spot and they are all gorgeous. Two Steps Forward is a move toward a more commercial sound that still manages a depth and passion and even has a lap steel or clever slide is hidden away. Better still, it also has a melodic and simple yet complex guitar solo to celebrate. Final track proper is the duet with the sobering title of World Burned Over. This is a just shy of seven-minute epic with the trademark electric over acoustic and a lyrical bite to their commentary on the world today. The downside is that it is a vehicle for the lyrics and so doesn’t have the immediacy of the others…in saying that, even the “la, de, da, de da,da” that heralds the best guitar solo on the album is enthralling in its execution and the solo lasts nearly long enough to sate my needs!

Whatever you do, do not just listen to this once or you will miss out on some stunning background nuances, particularly from the many and varied guitar parts as well as the memorable melodies and harmonies from both vocalists. No, it’s not blues or rock and it’s not folk…it is one of those rare genre-crossing releases that has to be appreciated for its quality in composition and, even a blues and rock devotee like me, can find a multitude of reasons to listen to this accomplished, accessible and classy piece of work.

NINEpawprint half inchdoodle paws out of TEN …

Track listing:

  1. All We Have Is Hope
  2. Back To The Blue
  3. The Great Healer
  4. Re-Inspire
  5. Fight For You
  6. Leaving Home
  7. From Now On
  8. If Only
  9. Talking Over Me
  10. Two Steps Forward
  11. World’s Burned Over
  12. All We Have Is Hope (reprise)

Band members:

Kelly Lethbridge: vocals

Jimmy Owen: guitars, vocals

Erik Stams: drums

Noah Nelson: bass

Lethbridge Owen sets Mind Over Matter

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