Last Ditch on the Left’s self-titled debut may be the first time Kerri Stephens and Brent Warren have teamed up to make a full-length record together, but they are, by far, no strangers to making music. Warren is a highly sought-after guitar wizard, and Stephens has made her mark with a solo career buoyed by her beautiful, delicate voice. The combination of the two is like rubbing two sticks together, sparks flying, making for a subtly gorgeous debut that burns soft and bright, and finds the couple sweeping out the ashes in the morning together.
It’s a real down-home and pretty piece of Americana that can’t help but conjure up visions of the Prairies, with Warren’s deep, raspy voice complementing Stephens’ nuanced warble on tracks like the front-porch swing of “Anjalee” and the finger-picked jaunt of “Bind My Heart Forever.” About halfway through, things get dark and stormy on the excellent “Trust In Me,” a slow-rising, knockout vocal performance by Stephens, accompanied by subtle guitar and haunting piano, that sounds like it could only have been crafted in a big empty house overlooking a cool lake with black clouds rolling in.
The duo save the very best for last, though, with “Made The News,” featuring Winnipeg ex-pat, co-writer and tourmate Matt Epp on backing vocals. It’s a simple, emotional love song, stripped of anything but beautiful melody and quietly powerful performances, where Warren and Stephens sing, “It’s like we’re stuck in holes we’ve dug around ourselves and those we love/a fear of letting lovers free/we speak of how it used to be.” It’s a record that perfectly encapsulates the same situation it was likely born from: sitting in a Wolseley backyard trading songs back and forth, enjoying someone’s company, twilight rolling in and the Prairie summer heat drifting off into the darkness. (Two Small Houses Records, lastditchontheleft.com) Matt Williams