Lowri Evans & Lee Mason – A Little Bit of Everything
Shimi Records – 12 May 2017
Since 2006, Welsh singer songwriter Lowri Evans has released six albums and four EPs that draw their lyrics from both Welsh and English, and their influences from both sides of the Atlantic. Lowri’s musical partner throughout those albums has been guitarist, singer, studio engineer Lee Mason. This month the pair celebrate over a decade of exceptional music together with an album of favourite songs that goes far beyond the usual ‘Greatest Hits’ collection, as they return to the studio to re-visit some of their best work in A Little Bit of Everything.
Since Lowri’s 2006 Welsh language début album, Clyw Sibrydion, Lowri and Lee have performed and recorded together as a duo, but the billing has always belonged to Lowri. Given her distinctive voice and exceptional ability as a songwriter this probably seemed natural, as Lowri embarked on her musical career after finishing her music degree in Newcastle. The release of A Little Bit of Everything, though, sees the pair forge ahead with seemingly renewed confidence, and seems a fitting time to emerge fully fledged as a duo. That confidence shines through in the album’s opening track Last Night.
Taken from Lowri’s third album, One Way Ticket, Last Night opens with a soft, soulful chant and electric guitar floating quietly over a strummed acoustic. Lowri’s sweet, welcoming vocal tells a lover’s story that starts in a dream-like bliss but soon takes on darker tones. As a woman waits, in vain, for her lover’s return, the contrast of light, jazz tones and the hint of malicious reproach in Lowri’s voice is hypnotic. The song introduces one of the most important aspects of this album – this is Lowri and Lee as their live audience enjoy them, as a vocal and guitar duet. The whole album was recorded live in the studio, with just the duo performing as they do on stage – without guests, without overdubs. Judging by the sparkle throughout the album, it was also recorded without a care in the world. Those light, jazzy tones are equally effective in Deep Inside, as the song enjoys the rich texture of two acoustic guitars, and is enhanced by Lee’s vocal harmonies. It’s a joy to hear how well-matched the duo’s voices are, producing a combined vocal performance that’s reminiscent of Tracy Thorn and Ben Watt at their finest. Deep Inside originally came from the 2013 album Corner of My Eye, which featured guest appearances by, among others, Martin Simpson and Andy Cutting. Lowri and Lee have enjoyed a strong relationship with many artists on the UK folk scene, in recent years sharing the billing with Cara Dillon, Blue Rose Code and Seth Lakeman. The title track from Corner of My Eye also features on A Little Bit of Everything, taking a similar dual-acoustic approach, augmented by Lee’s harmonies.
Lowri’s first album though, Clyw Sibrydion, was entirely comprised of songs in Welsh; and it’s from that album Lowri’s brought Cariad Mwyn. Lowri’s voice almost seems to take on a new persona when I hear her sing in Welsh for the first time. There’s a fire and a passion in those perfectly enunciated consonants that are supplemented by a rich, bassy guitar. The passion is tempered, but still in evidence, for Merch y myny from the same album. This song about the changes Lowri has seen in her home town of Newport, Pembrokeshire, is filled with that soft intensity that’s such an important aspect of Lowri’s Welsh song.
Merch y myny closes the album, but one more Welsh language offering is also one of two cover versions featuring in Lowri’s studio work for the first time. Cân Walter (Walter’s Song) comes for the pen of Welsh singer songwriter Meic Stevens. Lowri and Lee together take the song on a gentle outing. They must have been almost tempted to fill the sound with a rich sweep of strings, but the understated bass notes and softly picked guitar do all that’s needed to frame Lowri’s rich but plaintive vocal. The album’s other cover version is a complete contrast, as Lowri and Lee revel in a beautifully laid back rendition of the Jimmy Cox classic, Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out.
The title track of Lowri’s 2016 album, Everyone Is From Somewhere Else, provides one of the clearest helpings of Americana and, from the same album, Piece of Me (co-written with Henry Priestman and Pete Riley) makes more fine use of those wonderfully matched harmonies and a union of two picked acoustic guitars. Seventeen is one of the finest examples of Lowri’s skill as a songwriter, as a gentle ballad combines electric and acoustic guitars for a beautiful portrait of young lives devastated by war. Maria’s was originally recorded as Not At Maria’s on Lowri’s début English language album, Kick The Sand. The rich sound of her semi-acoustic guitar brings heat to a lover’s cool deception.
Being new to Lowri Evans’ music and hearing these songs revisited, rather than in compilation form, is a joy. There’s none of the disorientation involved in accessing samples of an artist’s music over a decade all in one go. The approach brings a cohesiveness to the music – almost like starting out anew. This new approach to recording allows so much to shine – Lowri’s voice, of course, but the strength of their combined guitar work, and the wide range of possibilities as a vocal duet. From what I’ve heard from the back catalogue, the last ten years has seen Lowri Evans mature as a songwriter and performer; develop a growing assurance and confidence. From what I’ve heard on A Little Bit of Everything – Lowri Evans and Lee Mason have a lot more to look forward to, and a lot more to discover, as a duet. An album that offers exceptional live performances and sheds new light on some highly accomplished songwriting.
Listen to Seventeen (Single version):
A Little Bit of Everything is released 12th May 2017 and is available to pre-order via their Pledge Music Page here: http://www.pledgemusic.com/projects/lowriandlee
Lowri Evans & Lee Mason Live Dates
08 – Live session on BBC Radio Cymru with Tommo, 3pm
12 – Ty Siamas, Dolgellau, 7.30pm
13 – Water Yeat Village Hall, Lake District, 7.30pm
14 – Bow’s Folk, Rhuthin
19 – The Comfy Bookshop, Coventry, 7pm
21 – Live session on BBC Radio Wales with Jamie Owen, 10am
21 – National Botanic Garden of Wales, Llanarthne, 2pm
27 – The Big Retreat Wales Festival
28 – Rhos y Gilwen, opening for Moya Brennan (Clannad), 7pm
10 – Tin Shed, Laugharne (with Lost Hollow)
16 – House gig, Tansley
18 – TwickFolk, Cabbage Patch pub, Twickenham, 7.30pm
29 – Burnett’s Hill Chapel, Martletwy, 7.30pm
30 – The Warehouse, Harrogate, 7.30pm
01 – St Anne’s Folk Club, Lytham St Anne’s, 7pm
02 – Acapela, Pentyrch, 4pm
07 – Huxley House concert, Farnham
08 – Nordic Church, Liverpool, 7.30pm, with Ange Hardy and Elfin Bow
09 – Live session with Spencer Leigh, BBC Radio Merseyside, 7pm
14 – St David’s Music and Art Festival
16 – Folk on the Farm Festival, Tyddyn Mon, Anglesey, 6.50pm
22 – Sesiwn Fawr, Dolgellau
26 – St Meilyrs Church, Llys y Fran, 7pm
02 – Monmouth Festival, The Three Horseshoes, 9.30pm
09 – Eisteddfod Môn, Fferm Penrhos, Bodedern, 9pm
25 – Aberjazz Festival, Ffwrn, Fishguard, 4pm
02 – Fleetwood Folk and Blues Weekend, Fleetwood
04 – Processed Pea, The Light Dragoon, Etton, nr Beverley, 7.30pm
09 – BaaFest, Bellingham, Northumberland
29 – Llangwm Rugby Club, Llangwm, 7.30pm
More details and ticket links here: http://www.lowriandlee.co.uk/