Lewis and Leigh made a welcome return to Sheffield’s Cafe #9. They had made a big impression when they played there back in November 2015, and when Cafe #9 spotted that they had a ‘day off’ between appearances in Manchester and Nottingham, they pounced. Al Lewis and Alva Leigh said "yes", and the eagerly awaited evening sold out in no time. Lewis and Leigh’s star has been steadily rising since they formed in 2014, and it continues to ascend. They met through a shared songwriting project and realised that they had potential as performers together. They have been supporting Deacon Blue on tour, and at the recent UK Americana Awards they won both best album for ‘Ghost’ and best song for ‘The 4:19’. It’s wonderful to see them get the recognition and success they deserve.

They blend their voices and their backgrounds. Wales and the US have more in common than you might imagine. Alva Leigh hails from Mississippi, Al Lewis from North Wales. Americana is a label that embraces many types of music but the folk and country themes are universally recognised. Lost loves, abandoned property, lonely and reluctant cheating, life on the road, the solace of drink, it’s all there in the lyrics. The harmonies flow like honey and cream, with a hint of sage bitterness. What they described as their happiest country song, ‘Only 15’, is a tale of underage pregnancy, adoption and a loving reunion.

We heard songs from their new award winning album and a sublime version of the Smiths' ‘There is a Light That Never Goes Out’. Americana meets Mancunia.

This was a magical evening at a very special venue. All the ingredients were there. Outside there was snow on the hills, a full moon, a lunar eclipse and the promise of a comet. Inside all was cosy and snug. Imagine inviting your favourite musicians to play in your home. Light the multifuel stove and the candles, bake the cakes, set up the coffee machine, dim the lights. Set out all the chairs and seats you can find and welcome your friends inside. Some of them might have to stand in the kitchen, peering through the illuminated fish tank to the stage area. Sometimes a local artist brings her sketch book and makes a watercolour record of the evening. It’s quirky and it’s friendly and it has to be. You are practically sitting on someone’s knee! During the day it is a great neighbourhood cafe, an impromptu rehearsal space with its upright piano, a place to do the crossword, put the world to rights, read a book, meet old friends and make new ones. At night it becomes a little gem of a venue. It doesn’t matter whether it is a capacity audience or a handful of people. It is always a lovely experience for audience and performers alike. It’s an attentive audience too. There’s no room for chat at the back, there’s no bar to distract. There’s also no room to leave the stage before an encore as Lewis and Leigh realised. The venue creates an atmosphere and an intimacy that is rare. It’s live music at its best, whoever is playing, and it doesn’t get any better than Lewis and Leigh.

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Commenting On: Cafe 9, Sheffield, 11/2/2017 - Lewis and Leigh

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