If may have taken a decade for Michelle Lewis to release her second full length album but some things are worth waiting for and ‘The Parts Of Us That Still Remain’ which was self-released earlier this year in the USA will finally see the light of day in Europe on December 1st, 2014. The album was recorded in North Chelmsford, MA and at the Paramount Recording Studios in Los Angeles owned by her long-time collaborator Anthony J. Resta who co-produced the album with Lewis.
Anthony J. Resta is a famed producer (Elton John, Shawn Mullins, Duran Duran etc.) and multi-instrumentalist with a studio known for the use of vintage audio gear and an innovative approach to recording which enabled him to perform the majority of the music alongside Steve Sadler (Lap Steel, Dobro, Mandolin etc.). The album uses the standard drums, bass, acoustic guitar template but the producers have expanded the soundscape with additional instrumentation and production techniques (Resta is credited with broken light bulb shakers, falling bells and sci-fi mambo atmospherics alongside the usual guitar, bass and drums). This all works incredibly well in adding to the overall tone of the album as the ten songs of love, loss and the complications of relationships unfold.
Opener ‘Sorry I Forgot To Write’ sets the scene beautifully with a lovely clear, airy, vocal from Lewis drawing you in to a plaintive tale of falling in love with someone else and being too embarrassed to face up to the implications. ‘Running Back Home’ is deceptively simple to start and builds to a quite exquisite chorus that features a terrific and very subtle, vocal harmony that takes the song to another level and ‘None Of That Now’ has the feel of a classic country tune with an accordion and upright bass from Greg Loughman adding to the warmth of the song. Once again the vocal harmony on the chorus seals the deal. ‘Running Back Home’ and ‘None Of That Now’ were co-written with Nashville songwriter Robby Hecht.
‘Just Like A Movie’ is a gentle waltz with the unusual, but highly effective, use of a clarinet as the lead instrument and the swell of a cello (recorded at the wonderfully named Cello Power Studios) is a good example of Lewis’ ability to give her songs an almost filmic quality that is shared with album closer ‘Lost In L.A.’ which although slight in length, seems perfectly formed due to the sumptuous use of a string quartet. ‘Goodbye’ a collaboration with Conan Skyrme, a sound design engineer more usually associated with film and documentary projects, is an interesting departure that fits with the feel of the album albeit with a slightly busier and more complex rhythmic musical approach. Highlights continue with ‘Run Run Run’ perfectly blending acoustic and electric guitars to tell the story of loneliness and the futility of making plans, while ‘Paris’ takes a look at a relationship in crisis.
Michelle Lewis has been compared to Jewel in some reviews, which seems valid, but I do feel that the clarity and consiseness of the songwriting on show here is superior and has a more natural feel. The sweetness and purity of her voice has innocence reminiscent of Dolly Parton at her best.
If you are looking for a beautifully produced, perfectly performed album that features a set of genuine and intimate songs then this is for you.