Under the Stars, the new EP from singer-songwriter and guitarist Arwen Lewis mirrors her attraction to the cosmos. Lewis explains, “I’ve always had a fascination for the universe—it just trips me out! Now, I’m drawn to songs that take those ideas about how vast and mysterious it all is and relate it to human experience.”
The granddaughter of Oscar-winning actress Loretta Young and the daughter of Peter Lewis, a founding member of ‘60s psychedelic band Moby Grape, Arwen Lewis dropped her self-titled debut in 2015, a collection of her interpretations of her father’s songs.
On Under the Stars, she’s widening her scope to include producer and writer. Self-penned tunes include the layered, wistfully longing “Man on the Moon” and the beautiful heartbreak of “Winter,” showcased in two arrangements—once with gently growling guitar and again accompanied by piano and cello.
The EP also includes a country-flavored cover of her father’s “Black Moon,” as well as covers of Jackson Browne’s “Doctor My Eyes” and Joni Mitchell’s “I Think I Understand.”
“The songs I wrote as well as the ones I chose reflect the music I was raised on: Joni, Jackson, Jimi Hendrix, The Byrds, Nina Simone,” she says.
Speaking about how the EP came together, Lewis shares, “While I had complete creative control, I was lucky enough to get together with amazing musicians who were in sync with the way I hoped to express these songs.”
The musicians she’s referring to comprise Jonathan McEuen, Jason Achilles, George Adrian, Jeff Elliott, and Peter Lewis, who plays a Strat on one track. The recording was finished at Surprise Studio with Graham Palmer as the engineer.
Highlights on Under the Stars include “Winter,” opening on a slow, rolling rhythm composed of a fat bassline and crisp percussion topped by Lewis’s cashmere vocals. Light, almost vaporous harmonies, give the lyrics added depth and dimension.
A personal favorite, Lewis’s cover of “I Think I Understand” carries a humming resonance, along with a skipping/shuffling rhythm of allurement. Lewis’s voice takes on lower, rich tones, imbuing the lyrics with indulgent comprehension.
Perhaps the best song on the EP, “Man on the Moon” oozes pensive leitmotifs, gentle, creamy, and evocative, infusing the harmonic flow with yearning, tinted with hues of melancholy. While “Black Moon” travels on gentle waves of alt-country, providing a gorgeously silky matrix for Lewis’s voice, which has an affinity for country timbres.
Because of its graceful piano and tender strings, “Winter (Alt-Take)” projects a more delicate, sentimental feeling than the first version, which reflects a darker mood. Yet both are compelling in their separate ways.
With Under the Stars, Arwen Lewis shifts effortlessly between various musical styles, revealing a noteworthy genius for alt-country.