Fifteen Years is the latest album from Welsh singer songwriter Al Lewis, an artist who we have loved and followed for a very long time. Back in the days of writing for AMP magazine we would write about how talented a musician Al Lewis is. How his lyrics and melodies have you hanging on every word and sound you hear. From the Skin and Bones EP he recorded with Sarah Howells (Bryde), through to the albums Battles and In The Wake these are songs that have soundtracked my life since 2009.
If you have not had your world brightened by these recordings firstly enjoy the new album Fifteen Years, then dive into the back catalogue.
What I love when you have followed an artist for several years, is when a new album arrives that treats the world to a new collection of songs that affirm your love and belief in the song writer. Fifteen Years does all that and more, this is one of the most important albums you can listen to this year. It is important for a number of reasons, firstly the importance is how it has enabled Al Lewis to talk about the grief he has experienced in his life and secondly through doing so Al has given us listeners a voice to a subject it is never easy to think about, to allow feelings that we often keep buried inside to come to the forefront of our minds (especially men).
Al has talked openly about how Fifteen Years has been his way of communicating his grief following the passing of his father fifteen years ago. Like so many of us Al felt unable to fully talk about this and kept these feelings to himself for fifteen years. Grief is something that is always there, it is not something we should be expected to get over, it is something we all live with and we learn to live with it so things get easier over time but it is never something we simply “get over” and we should never feel the need to “get over it”. Al has given us a beautiful, honest collection of songs that will help anyone who has ever lost someone close. It is a way of using music and creativity in general to allow people to live on. Al’s father will live on through this album, this is a permanent reminder of his father as a person, the impact he had on Al’s life and how he lives on through family members. Again, something we can all relate to.
Every song on this album will move you, please allow yourself to cry. I certainly have shed several tears listening to this CD in the car. The title track is the key to this whole album, this was the song that provided the catalyst for the rest of the album. During lockdown, 15 years following the passing of his father, Al got round to clearing out the house, going through his dad’s possessions and this beautiful song poured out. The things we keep, the plans we have but don’t get to fulfil. Reminding us of the importance of living life, doing as much as we can whilst we are able to do so. How things live on after we have gone and finding comfort in that “But our apple tree’s still standing and it makes me feel like crying”.
Sunshine In Sorrow is written from Al’s father’s perspective and that longing to have a conversation that can’t happen in person but can happen through the magic of song writing. This is a gorgeous recording that opens the album in a very magical way. Never Be Forgotten shows how life is fragile, life passes in a blink of an eye and we have to appreciate everything the world gives us. The line “In another life you would have met my children” is heartbreaking and comforting. The song reminds us that we should not stop talking about people who no longer physically occupy spaces in our lives and homes “As long as there is breath in my lungs / You will never be forgotten”.
In My Daughter’s Eyes sees Al paying tribute to his father and acknowledging the impact he has had on his life “Who am I / I am the man you helped me discover”. The song shows how people live on through others. As a father myself I look at my daughter and as much as she is her own person, I often see other people within her “You are the glint in my daughters eyes”. In My Daughter’s Eyes also reminds us the importance of telling people how we feel, and not being afraid to say I love you “I still wish that we said I love you / And that we had just a little more time”.
Fatherly Guidance continues with Al reflecting on what he learnt from his father, “Remember when you taught me how to play rugby on the beach / And you always told me I should tackle just below the knee”. Reflecting on my own life, and the last eleven years I wonder what my daughter will remember from these days? Will she remember me teaching her how to ride a bike, helping to kick a football, reading books, learning times tables, climbing trees? These are precious moments that we need to hold onto and hope they live on when we are no longer here.
Like with every song on this album Feels Like Healing is a song that will be of comfort and help to everyone. This song deals with how anniversaries and significant moments in life can often be triggering and shows that it is ok to feel that way, it acknowledges how difficult a Father’s Day can be if you have lost a father. Then life continues and we can enjoy those days again. It may be through becoming a parent ourselves and whilst enjoying those days again it does not mean we forget those that are no longer here. It gives us permission (not that we need it) to continue to grieve, live life and heal “I know I’ll never be done with grieving / But this feels a lot like healing”.
Fifteen Years is an emotional and essential album. It is an album that I will be returning to on a very frequent basis for the rest of my life. Life is both beautiful and fragile. I know there are great days ahead and there will be more sad and heartbreaking times to get through. This album will be there to soundtrack those times, to show we are not on our own and we need to talk to each other and heal.
“The love you left / I can now address / It’s the light that lifts the gloom / I’m beginning to find you / In everything that I do / I’m beginning to find you / So I can find me too” – Beginning to Find You