Sunday, September 8, 2013

Philip Morgan Lewis - Karma Comedown EP - Making Me Miss Ronnie Lane

When I requested some info on Philip Morgan Lewis upon hearing his new Karma Comedown Ep, I wasn't too shocked, and pretty pleased to hear that one of his favorite musical toys is an old reel to reel tape recorder from the seventies he uses to track his vocals, guitars, and drums. You can hear the warmth on every track - the sounds and playing on this are the perfect bedding for his soulful vocals and his 'oh so tasteful' songwriting.

The single ( is the title track, and while it definitely deserves all the attention it's getting over across the puddle in the UK, it's the track Parlay Woods that won my heart and made me miss the late, great Ronnie Lane. One of my favorite tracks of 2013 - it's a country tinged soul rocker in the best British tradition, filled with tasteful playing from his whip crack sharp band, and his background singers, while he weaves the tale from the top of the mix:

Lewis comes across as a singer/songwriter who has well absorbed the fact that just a good song and a guitar is often not enough. This EP is brimming with clever arrangements, and he uses his voice as another instrument in the mix - when he bounces between a sweet falsetto and a husky Frankie Miller kind of busking on One Day, he's being chased by an arrangement that gets bigger and bigger with each verse, but he still wins by a head. His stealthy soufulness keeps taking me back to the sadly departed Ronnie Lane, he of The Small Faces, Faces, and a hallmark of British soul.

Lewis' band is sharp as nails for the whole of the EP - especially notable is the slide guitar of Steve Honest, who's worked in the past with a very diverse list of acts that includes Uriah Heep, Dolly Partin, Culture Club, and Bobby Womack. The rhythm section of bassist Ben Jones and drummer Jon Harris make a bunch of noise, jumping out on the title track like gangbusters, bringing back memories of Norman Greenbaum's '60s classic, "Spirit In The Sky.' They're both subtle and thumping - never an easy combo, but they pull it off with great aplomb. Riffing along over every song is guitarist Rob Updegraff - on Hell Hole Blues the guitars create a thick stew of blues that never bores, as they keep it both on point and loosely tight.

Karma Comedown was mastered by Pete Maher (U2, Rolling Stones, Jack White), and it's money well spent - songs jump out at you, and the clarity and aforementioned warmth of the mix are tremendously enjoyable in this time of ProTools sterility.

Little A wraps up the all-too-short song cycle with a bit of Dylanesque whimsy - the tangled up in blue guitars are prodded along by the bass and drums, and the female background vocalists are sublime, but it's Philip Morgan Lewis who keeps us focused on the songs. Not an easy task, as his skillful production has made this one of the sonic standouts of 2013.

There's a full length album in the pipeline for October/November, but for now try out this tasty sampler, and see if it doesn't make you miss the soulful musicality of Ronnie Lane, and a bunch of other wonderful memories when all music had the pleasure of hitting tape.

Thanks to Vicky Crawley, and Philip Morgan Lewis and band.

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