Benjamin Francis Leftwich is a mere 21 years old. This is not to his detriment however, infact there is something to his three-part name that is almost synonymous with being both established and familiar, yet this also serves to hide him amongst the smoke of current singer folk-singer-songwriters: Daniel Martin Moore, James Vincent McMarrow, David Thomas Broughton, Josh T. Pearson…you get the idea. So while he’s a new name to watch, Leftwich also finds himself slightly lost in the thicket.
It’s not that he is new to the game however, Last Smoke Before the Snowstorm follows up the two promising EPs released by the Edinburgh musician this Spring and last Autumn which caused a stir of anticipation to form around the LP’s release. In noting the likes of Ryan Adams, Arcade Fire and Bruce Springsteen as influences this youthful troubadour produces quiet storysongs using little more than acoustic guitar, simplistic unobtrustive percussion and the occasional violin accompaniment. While his songwriting style is visually descriptive Leftwich doesn’t have much that may initially define and grab attention from the rest of the singer-songwriters. Similarly, his hushed vocal delivery, that while beautiful to listen to for the odd few songs, doesn’t provide enough variety to captivate for the entirety of the album. That said there are standout tracks that stand far above others: beautifully crafted acoustic guitars set against a backdrop of strings, latest single ‘Box of Stones’ is a neatly constructed pop-folk song.
‘1904’ has a bit more going on subtly reflecting on philosophy and religion as rhythmic percussion, and a voice both hazy and close in the mix often harmonises with itself, while ‘Shine’ suffers from an overly sweet cliche of lyrics. ‘Butterly Culture; may capture in titling alone the shortlived beauty of this album which starts and ends stunningly but never quiet grabs for any moment of its 30-minute play. Unfortunately this feels like an album better left for background listening; moments of beauty and odd lyrical observations that grab but never quiet hold for long enough.