Benjamin Francis Leftwich has made us wait for this, his debut album, Last Smoke Before The Snowstorm. The wait was worth it. This 10 track disk of songsmith-ery is a whispery, tender joy. His lyrics are poetry, perfectly weighted, not a word wasted. His guitar, honey on the palate. The overall feel is as gentle and undeniably permeating as the smoke in the title.
‘Atlas Hands’ and ‘Pictures’ give us a dose of the familiar; the tracks new to the album give you the sense of meeting a friend’s friends and knowing that you are all going to get along just fine.
Real highlights of this debut include ‘Butterfly Culture’, a song so gentle, by law, it should be played to all newborn babes to welcome them into this world. ‘Snowship’, a favourite of mine from his performance at the Jericho Tavern, is a word to the wise about the trips, traps and pitfalls faced by the young on their quest into adulthood; “be careful what you wish for when you’re young” he gently croons, a sentiment that you feel has resonance within the songwriter himself. ‘Box Of Stones’, the first single from this album, is an exquisitely touching song to a lover. Strings dance around the melody and lull the listener into picturing the story behind the lyrics. A curious thing that young Ben is getting very good at.
‘Don’t Go Slow’, Last Smoke‘s closing track, is a beautiful four minutes of transportation that weaves a tale of a man and a woman, deeply and passionately involved in the moment.
The album’s title track is a (somewhat) full band affair, a departure from the man-and-his-guitar routine that Leftwich does so well. Subtle drums and a drifting violin are warm accompaniments to Leftwich’s constantly pleasing vocals and finger-picking.
Listening to this album, one can only conclude that it is extremely well produced. That is not to say that the production is obvious, no hint of autotune or studio-addled instrumentation, simply that the careful blend of the textures of sound come to deliver a weave so delicate, you may as well be listening to silk.
Released on 20th June 2011 by Dirty Hit