Review by Vanessa Monaghan

Benjamin Francis Leftwich has been building up quite a name for himself over the course of the past year. A couple of E.P.s a tour slot with Noah and The Whale and a Glastonbury appearance later, Leftwich is about to release his debut album ‘Last Smoke Before Snowstorm’.

The album starts with ‘Pictures’ and immediately noticeable is the delicate balance between guitar and vocals. While the production may seem minimal, reverb on Ben’s vocals and ghostly backing vocals during the refrain, fill this beauty and allow the vocals to come to the forefront.

I always think it’s hard for singer songwriters, although they vary in genre and quality, they all get lumped in together. Benjamin Francis Leftwich manages to show us on this album that the sound of this singer songwriter is from jaded.

Current single ‘Box of Stones’, again starts off with the use of guitar as the main instrumentation. As the track goes on, gentle percussion and string arrangements rise in the chorus keeping it interesting. Ben’s vocals are here accompanied by a female harmony make this a song you will definitely hear on your radio.

The album has been produced by Ian Grimble (Mumford and Sons, Manic Street Preachers) and since Ben’s E.P.s, they have clearly defined what Ben’s sound is. Every instrument or sound used during the production is tender and delicate, everything has it’s place in the sonic plan, nothing is too overpowering.

There are a few familiar tracks on the album, which have been included from the previous E.P. releases including ‘Atlas Hands’, an upbeat track which beautifully mixes two guitars along with the main vocals which are again accompanied by a female vocal. Spacious, airy, perfect.

One of the most instantly accessible tracks is ‘Shine’, a more uptempo track built around percussive sounds and hand claps. I wouldn’t be surprised if this ended up on a movie or soundtrack, it holds a grown up Dawson’s Creek appeal.

The title track ‘Last Smoke Before The Snowstorm’ takes everything we’ve learned about Ben and puts it neatly into one package. It still allows everything to breathe but builds up to have a fuller feel with the help of a subtle bass line.

This is a fine album, everything has been carefully thought about and gets the best from Benjamin Francis Leftwich’s vocals and lyrics. This is Ben’s sound, I couldn’t imagine it any other way. If you buy one album by a singer songwriter this year, make it this one.

‘Last Smoke Before The Snowstorm’ is out this Friday.

Benjamin Francis Leftwich is on tour in Ireland in July

15/07/2011 Dublin: Sugar Club (supporting Liam Finn)
16/07/2011 Cork: Cypress Avenue
17/07/2011 Galway: Roisin Dubh
18/07/2011 Limerick: Dolan’s Upstairs
20/07/2011 Dublin: Whelans Upstairs
21/07/2011 Belfast: McHughs