An Enjoyable Collection of Well Crafted Songs
by John Murphy | Music OMH | June 17, 2023
An enjoyable collection of well crafted songs, mostly self-penned, defy expectations for a debut album from a successful actor. It’s easy to be cynical about seeing yet another middle-aged actor deciding that it’s not enough to be wildly successful in their chosen field. No, what they really want to do is music. History is littered with such characters – in the last few years alone, Kiefer Sutherland, Russell Crowe and, famously, Johnny Depp have all turned their hand to rock music, with varying degrees of success.
You sense that Damian Lewis, best known for roles in TV shows like Band of Brothers, Billions and Homeland knows this too. “It’s just what the world needs…another record by an actor” he’s said, while promoting Mission Creep. The fact that it’s another collection of ‘authentic’ bluesy rock is yet another reason to be wary.
And yet…against expectations, Mission Creep is actually pretty enjoyable. It may not be enough for Lewis to give up his day job, but it’s certainly a respectable collection of well crafted songs – most of which have been written by Lewis himself. His voice, while maybe not the strongest instrument, is full of soul and character, and when he tackles the more personal material on Mission Creep, you can see why this was a particular itch he had to scratch.
The tone is laid-back and reflective, with the opening folky track ‘Down On The Bowery’ setting the tone well. Sometimes, he dives into more bluesy territory, such as ‘Hole In My Roof’ and the excellent ‘Zaragoza,’ but it’s his choice of cover versions which indicate what sort of album Mission Creep is.
Lewis performs some faithful, respectful covers of Neil Young‘s ‘Harvest Moon,’ JJ Cale‘s ‘After Midnight’ and Dr John‘s ‘Such A Night,’ which are all sung and played beautifully, but they do across a bit karaoke. ‘Such A Night’ even sees Lewis lapsing into an impression of Dr John’s idiosyncratic vocal technique, and ‘After Midnight’ lacks the mischievous smirk of Cale’s original.
So it’s the original material where Lewis really shines. It’s understandable that many of the songs on Mission Creep have been inspired by Lewis’ late wife Helen McCrory who died of cancer in 2021, and the elegiac feel of ‘She Comes’ is undeniably moving. Lines like “she comes as a blackbird, she comes as a fox…she’s my joy, she’s my pain and she rained on me” are delivered with the sort of intensity that can only come with grief.
Similarly, the aforementioned ‘Zaragoza’ has a world-weary tone to it, talking of travelling with “Mary Jane and JJ are my only friends”, but it’s lines like “My baby left me, and I’m now I’m all alone” that give the track its emotional heft. It never becomes maudlin though, with tracks like ‘My Little One’ and ‘Never Judge A Man By His Umbrella’ being a couple of slices of decent rootsy blues-folk.
There’s the occasional misfire at times – ‘Soho Tango’ has lines like “then you took me to the toilet, gave me coke, and then we left” which doesn’t really fit with the rest of the wistful mood of the record. Yet if you can park your cynicism to one side, Mission Creep is a pretty successful record that, while it may not open a new career for Lewis, demonstrates a talented different side to the actor.
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: Music OMH