Categories Album Mission Creep Music Review

Mission Creep Album Review: Financial Times

A Warm, Rich Debut

by David Cheal | Financial Times | June 16, 2023

Mission Creep ★★★★

When Damian Lewis made his acting breakthrough as a US army major in the second world war TV drama Band of Brothers, it came as a shock to many viewers to learn that he is British, such was the seeming authenticity of his American accent. Now, at 52, Lewis springs another surprise: he is a singer-songwriter of some distinction, here releasing his debut album.

The publicity blurb tells us that as a young man Lewis took off with a guitar and busked across Europe, and that he has long since yearned to return to making music. While the songs here are a long way from being “busked”, they nevertheless have a loose, rootsy quality, a sense of swing and spontaneity. Stylistically the album covers a broad spectrum, from folk-rock to jazz to glam, but its sonic palette — acoustic guitar, keyboards, saxophone and clarinet, bursts of electric guitar, stabs of Hammond organ — brings cohesion to this disparateness.

And then of course there’s the big question: Can he sing? There’s a chequered history of actors turning to music, some with success (Minnie Driver, Hugh Laurie), some less so (Russell Crowe). Lewis belongs firmly in the former camp, possessing a tenorish voice that’s firm and true, ascending at times to considerable heights. He can write a decent tune, too: most of the songs here are by Lewis, with a sprinkling of covers.

Mission Creep (the title alludes to his new venture into music and perhaps puns on his role in the national-security-terminology-heavy TV series Homeland) opens gently with the folksy strum of “Down on the Bowery”, Lewis half-crooning in a mid-Atlantic accent; “Soho Tango” follows in similarly lightweight vein. Neil Young’s “Harvest Moon” is covered faithfully, Lewis’s voice smoothing out the crackles of Young’s original.

Then comes the emotional heart of the album. In 2021 tragedy struck when Lewis’s wife, the actor Helen McCrory, died from cancer, and it seems fair to assume that she is the figure being addressed and celebrated in “She Comes”, a stirring crescendo of a song in which Lewis and band coalesce with impressive intensity, piano splashing around lines such as “She’s the click of a heel, an abandoned dress.”

“After Midnight” perhaps lacks the husky twinkle of JJ Cale’s original; “Why” brings out the jazzy side of Lewis and his musicians, clarinet dancing playfully. A third cover, the gently swinging mischief of Dr John’s “Such a Night”, closes this warm, rich album.

Damian’s debut album Mission Creep was released June 16, 2023 and can be ordered from several outlets here. Upcoming shows include Rough Trade East (includes album signing!) on June 19, Union Chapel on July 11 in London and Mercury Lounge NYC on July 19. Additionally, Damian just announced new September/October UK Tour dates here. Don’t miss out, get your tickets now!

‘Mission Creep’ Album – Damian Lewis Music Store (UK) here
‘Mission Creep’ Album – Damian Lewis Music Store (US) here
‘Mission Creep’ Album – Several music services here or Target
‘Down on the Bowery’ – Apple Music, iTunes, Spotify, YouTube, Amazon and more here
‘Zaragoza’ – Pandora, Tidal, Spotify, YouTube, Amazon and more here
‘Makin’ Plans’ – Napster, Pandora, Tidal, Spotify, iTunes, Amazon and more here
‘She Comes’ – Spotify, YouTube, Apple Music and iTunes here

Source: Financial Times