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First Thoughts Review: 'Leaving Autumn Town' - Stacey McNeil & Jonathan Smith

--Reviewed for FBC by Mal MacWatt--

With excellent songcraft and strong melodies, ‘Leaving Autumn Town’ is an impressive debut from North Wales duo Stacey McNeil and Jonathan Smith.

'Leaving Autumn Town' is clean, simple and pure and nestles very nicely into the folk/americana crossover genre that is becoming increasingly popular.

It opens with the beautiful folky tones of “Last Leaf” where delicate use of strings and mandolin add some touches of colour to a traditional pastoral scene.

With six tracks on offer I consider this a mini-album especially as it feels like a lot of thought has gone into the track order; it flows very nicely as a piece of music.

“Between the Lines” is a gorgeous love song with a delightful call and response through the verses. Sparse use of finger-picked banjo gives the song a sweet Anglo-Americana feel which brings a raw honesty to an already heartwarming lyric.

“Brave Spirit” really showcases the richness of McNeil’s voice gently supported by nicely arranged harmonies weaving in and out. For me it’s the most accomplished track on the EP and with just guitar and piano actually sounds the most country/americana thanks to an emotive storyline of loss and acceptance.

The music builds through “Winds of Change” and hits its dynamic peak with the folk-country “Mine To Call”, the only song with a full band production. The use of organ adds some nice retro-soul elements to a song that would do very well on Trans-Atlantic radio.

Last song “The Secret Gardener” returns to the more rural territory of traditional folk over a lovely fingerpicked guitar with a clever use of reverb fading to a short string-section outro; a nice closing touch to a thoroughly enjoyable EP.

Follow Stacey McNeil & Jonathan Smith here

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