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Thursday, 11 July 2013

Zervas & Pepper : Lifebringer review

Summer’s here so pop the album in the car player, wind down the window and bask in that Laurel Canyon sunshine. Yes, even in 2013.

Because Welsh duo Paul Zervas and Kathryn Pepper have captured the sound and the spirit of the Woodstock generation on an album that shamelessly takes cues from late 1960s California.

Bookended by CSNY clones Buffalo Crow and All The World Has Changed, it’s a set infused with warm harmonies, pedal steel and soft summery rock and roll.

There are switches from major to minor chords, the occasional sound of a flute, just enough grumbling guitar to stop it from feeling at all twee.

Standout track Jerome, the tale of a father warning his son to leave the small town of his birth for the bright lights of the big city, adds sweet strings.

Lookout Mountain continues that Laurel Canyon vibe, even name-checking the laidback locale famous for its music and arts crowd back in the day.

One Man Show fast forwards further, recalling Rumours-era Fleetwood Mac. Ghost Dancer crosses the Atlantic with a feel familiar to anyone who ever bought a Matthews Southern Comfort album.

At the close the aforesaid All The World Has Changed opens up into the mantra “And when you wake, you will remember” but it ends all too quickly after three or four refrains.

In live concert it’ll doubtless extend in the same way as Hey Jude.

Check the watch and you’ll find that the set’s only lasted 39 minutes – but it may just be the best half-hour or so you’ll hear this year.

It is the duo’s second album, following on from Somewhere In The City which they recorded back in 2011.

The pair first met in the Toucan Club, Cardiff and decided to write and perform their own original songs as a duo – shades of The Civil Wars.

“That was a very exciting time for us,” says Zervas. “We were still finding our feet as songwriters, pushing each other and digging ever deeper musically, determined not to be constrained by current trends in musical style.

“We realised we’d found our ultimate soulmates in each other. As our romance blossomed, the harmony in our music increasingly reflected the harmony in our lives – at times it felt almost otherworldly to us.

“And our audiences picked up on that.”

With the help of Welsh producer Kriss Jenkins, Zervas & Pepper released an EP in 2008 and started selling out local live shows. BBC Radio Wales soon picked up on them.

By 2011 the duo had a significant following and their first album was released to great acclaim and much radio airplay. 6 Music’s Radcliife & Maconie, Lauren Laverne and Steve Lamacq were all enthusiastic.

More recently Tom Robinson, Janice Long and, er, Terry Wogan have heaped praise on the pair too.

Brit Awards beckon.

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