THE LOST NOTES – Lowlifes & High Times (own label)

Lowlifes & High TimesLowlifes & High Times, the much anticipated second album from Birmingham’s acoustic quintet, finds them dispensing with the debut’s playful socio-political numbers such as ‘Bankers Blues’ and ‘Green Grass’ for, as they put it, songs that celebrate the ups and downs of journeymen, despots, sleazeballs, fools, the planet and the consciously idle. It also seems them further developing the jazzier side of their sound (also reflected in the 50s-styled artwork), as can be impressively heard on the self-descriptively themed ‘All Born Free’, on which Ben and Lucy Mills share vocals, the latter providing the ba da ba da scat backing, and, also taking lead, the slinky samba-esque sway of the not putting up with your ways anymore, ‘Nobody’s Fool’.

It opens though in glorious folksy pop form, Ben in falsetto mode, with the cascading chords of the coming home to my heart ‘Pieces Of A Star’, featuring Helena Roswell on cello and spotlighting their terrific harmonies and beautifully complementary guitar work, slipping then into the tempo shifting trying to win your love ‘Holding On’ with its scampering chorus.

Lead guitarist Oli Jobes takes over vocals for the self-penned old time country-folk waltzing received wisdom of ‘A Fool Once Told Me’ (“It’s a wise man who knows he’s fool”) before nimble Spanish guitar introduces the more dramatic Latin sway of ‘Done With The Waiting’, another that has Lucy on lead as, a sort of obverse version of ‘Holding On’, she sings “Though I’m a lioness/If I wait I lose my pride”.

Opening with Maxim Tomlinson’s scurrying muted drums before the urgent picked guitar arrives, ‘Still I Come’ rides a tumbling, rolling melody line on a song about refusing to be pushed aside when help is clearly needed (“You need calm hands to hold you/Help you make it through the dark”).

On a similar theme about providing comfort when that’s all you can offer, another of their infectious waterfall of chords folk-pop numbers, here taken at a slower, close harmony pace, ‘I’ll Just Hold You’ is beguilingly lovely. From that’s minimal arrangement, things flesh out with Tomlinson and Silas Wood’s double bass laying down the itchy rhythm of the goodtime jazzy ‘I Got Time’, Ben and Lucy sharing the verses and featuring percussion solo towards the end, when handclaps carry along a number you could imagine George Melly having sung,

Prior to, respectively, bonus acoustic and piano mixes of ‘All Born Free’ and ‘I’ll Just Hold You’, here with a capella intro and even more gorgeous, it ends with another melodic jazzy swing flurry of guitars and handclaps on ‘Goodbye Yesterday’ which brings things to a close on an eco protest note that references factory farming, GM crops, forest felling, plastic in the oceans, fracking, eco-bulbs and bags for life in a comment on short-term solutions rather than addressing the bigger picture as it calls on industry and government to pull together to save the planet. Their debut announced them as rising stars, this puts them firmly in the brightest constellation.

Mike Davies

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