MICHELLE LEWIS – All That’s Left (own label)

All That's LeftBased in L.A., Lewis explores the softer edges of folk-pop Americana, her songs suffused with sadness and melancholy, dealing with loss and longing, delivered in her tender, plaintive tones. All That’s Left, her third album, is described as a transformative journey from regret to compassion, her words and music gently brushed here and there by cellist Cameron Stone, accordion player Nate Gonzalez and pianist Ruslan Sirota.

The hurt and confusion of loss opens the album with the lapping waves of ‘That’s What They Say’, the musical and thematic mood leaking across into the title track reflection on the ashes and aftermath of a relationship and the regret of things unsaid. She may write within a specific emotional framework, but her songs have shades and nuances that afford each their own identity. Indeed, she also takes Springsteen’s ‘Dancing In The Dark’, bringing the tempo down to fully mine the despair, loneliness and the need for human companionship in its soul not always evident in the original.

Equally, built around piano, cello and fretless bass, ‘Please Don’t Go’ is not a plea to a parting lover but a poignant urging of someone at the point of giving in to death to hang on a little longer as she heartbreakingly sings “don’t listen to what he’s been telling you…this ain’t the first mistake that God has made.”

That sense of fighting against the darkness when you feel you don’t have the strength to carry on is there too on ‘Push On’, a collaboration with Robby Hecht who also duets on their co-written ‘In Love Again’, a song about looking past the bumps in the road and the things in a relationship that can drive you mad, but which “don’t seem so bad when you hold each other tight.”

There’s a very personal backdrop to ‘Scars’, a folky, lightly fingerpicked song that recounts her late grandmother’s life from a first person perspective, the loss of her first husband to a wartime plane crash, a remarriage only to lose her first born daughter to cancer and then her husband, raising their other children as a single mother only, and then in her old age, to have them move her into a care home and wait to die (“hit the light switch on your way out, there’s nothing more for me to see”). Echoing the earlier ‘How’ which contemplated finding yourself at a certain point in your life, reflecting on how you got there and wondering where you go, it’s about accepting your life with dignity and not “keeping count of all the scars”.

The album ends with the upbeat fingerpicked Jackson C. Frank-like ‘Lay On My Pillow’, echoing how a trouble shared is a trouble halved as she sings “give me your light, I’ll give you mine, stay with me darling, we’ll be fine.” As the press notes succinctly put it, the emotional heft of her songs comes from “the strength of the bond not the pain of the fracture.” All that’s left is more than enough.

Mike Davies

Artist’s website: http://michellelewismusic.com/

‘Push On’ – official video: