Review by Ryan Haughey
Hopeful or disheartening – which way does Leith Ross sway? Their debut EP Motherwell is simultaneously melancholy and faithful. Motherwell’s faith in the goodness of life is refreshing – Ross’ tender-hearted lyricism is organic and magnetic. This live-off-the-floor recorded EP dives earnestly into memories and deep, clever thoughts.
The lead single and EP opener “Everyone I’ve Never Met” playfully exposes Ross’ shut-in-ism. A warm piano smoothly connects thoughtful changes led by wood-like toned guitar strumming. As Ross’ sings honey-thick harmonies over lyrics that long to know the strangers they fear, a pickin’ electric guitar quietly plays call and response.
Ross’ voice is enough to impress; at times you can hear them smile through the lyrics on “Grown Up,” only to draw listeners further forward in their seat with soft vibrato. On this second track, Ross’ poetic perspective on age shifts through the stages of childhood into adulthood. If you listen closely, shimmering strings float alongside the artist’s vocal lines, reflecting and reinforcing introspective melodies.
Short but sweet, “No More Words” looks around for more ways to express eternal love. Ross’ words and voice are beyond enough for listeners to feel the passion expressed. Tactful and patient, Ross takes their time to fully flesh out the colours of emotion laid out in front of them, composing and curating paintings and photographs that capture moments in their life.
“Prayer” is a belief in the good in life and nature, freedom of spirit to fear and find comfort in the unknown depths of human faith – religious, spiritual, or otherwise. A guitar stomps from bass notes to treble as a cello drones beneath tickled lead guitar strings through to the end of the song as Ross chants “Amen, amen, amen.”
Reciting painful memories, emotional and physical, Ross shares the darkest of feelings and what draws them back into life – all this over a jaunty chord progression on “For Now.” Stripped to the minimalist bare instrumentation of vocals, harmonies, acoustic guitar, and bass, raw emotion passes through like the colour spectrum through the atmosphere to hit listeners right in the eyeballs, maybe even the tear ducts.
Another single from the EP, “Tommy” is an ode to a dearly loved family member. The music video is a character study in the form of a compilation of old family videos. Respect and admiration shine through Ross’ voice for their grandfather enough for any listener to share in those feelings of love for Tommy.
Revelations of what it means to be family and individual are Ross’ focus on “Understood.” More memorable moments where lyrics and music cross over when Ross wishes they could “stop”. Lyrically rich, this song aches for understanding and compassion.
The last song of the EP is “Coming Back.” With an air of finality, Ross is nostalgic for a lighter time where life was more precious. The track reprises over a recording of Ross’ grandfather one last time as the artist quietly howls like a ghost until the last lyric: “I used to wake to the morning and feel like the world was created for me.”
Leith Ross’ storytelling is fearless yet gentle. Childhood, mental health, and love of life. Lacking nothing in poeticism, Ross performs these songs with an ache in their heart and a string attached to listeners hearts. Now I miss everyone I’ve never met too.