Catherine and Lizzy Ward Thomas are no strangers to producing exceptional studio and live performances. Having already achieved a number 1 UK album with their sophomore ‘Cartwheels’ and a top 10 (number 8 UK album charts) hit with their third studio album ‘Restless Minds’, the sisterly duo mark a substantial overhaul in their sound with the upcoming release of ‘Invitation’ this Friday (9th October). The eclectic fourth studio album is a critical turning point for the twins who have blended pop sensibilities with contemporary country tones and impressively relatable lyricism.
The LP is a work of love for the sisters who intended the album to have a homespun vibe which was further enforced by lockdown restrictions. Written and recorded entirely independently, produced by Johnathan Quarmby (Lewis Capaldi, Tom Walker) and distributed by East West, the new major label home for the duo who saw a departure from Sony Music following the end of their three album deal, it is evident that the album is a highly personal affair. Catherine has described the album as “natural and organic” and it is clear their mentality to complete the project independently has led to a rare gem of record which is sure to have its praises sung wide and far.
The tone of the album is immediately set with opening track ‘Sweet Time’ As a single released as a part of the album cycle, fans have already been able to enjoy the new pop sensibilities employed throughout the record combined with sweet harmonic vocals. The chorus is particularly pleasing with perfectly pitched harmony which is combined eloquently with soft percussion and enhanced by light bass guitar. As an opening track, ‘Sweet Time’ perfectly describes what the listener has in store.
‘Don’t Be A Stranger’ is an interesting track musically and lyrically. The track evokes a wide range of sonic influences from folk, country, pop and contemporary americana. This combination of influences has led to a unique piece of work, which although substantially different to previous work by the duo, is sonically distinctly unique to the sisters. ‘Open Your Mind’ follows the array of influences shown in ‘Don’t Be A Stranger’. The simplistic production, coupled with memorable melody, a catchy guitar rift and exceptional lyrics which inspired the album title (“I’m sending invitations, everyone around, it’s a celebration – won’t leave anybody out”) make this a stand-out track of the record.
Although not a distinctly country record, tracks such as lead single ‘Someday’ make it evident how the genre has made an impression on the duo. Outlining the track is lyrical storytelling to envy even the most powerful of songwriters. A lyrical story lends itself extraordinarily well to this radio-focused track which sees soft percussion enhanced with electronic percussion and strings to build a unique genre-crossing piece. It is clear to see why the single has already received wide praise and substantial national radio play.
As the next track states, it was almost as if this record was ‘Meant To Be’. Perfectly showcasing the vocal talents of both sisters, the track is almost haunting in its simplicity. Softly produced with harmonies laden gently throughout the piece, the track is a masterclass in how to create a work which focuses on lyricism and vocals without over the top production. Providing a change in direction for the record is an acapella performance in the form of ‘Dear Me’. This entirely vocal centered performance provides the perfect opportunity for the duo to display their vocal talents and produce a haunting beautiful track which is almost choral in its nature.
‘Hold Space’ provides a stark reminder of how lyrics can be used to understand complex emotions and evoke a sense of relatability within listeners. ‘Hold Space’ is particularly poignant in these challenging times and is a reminder of how providing a shoulder to cry on could prove to be an important moment for an individual who is struggling.
The most distinctly country piece on the record is ‘Wait Up’. Sprinkled with banjo and country undertones, the track combines a distinctly Americanised genre with the unique perspective and sound of the British duo. As a country-pop track, the piece could be the perfect introduction to the genre for many listeners. In an immediate change of pace to ‘Wait Up’, the record takes an almost sinister tone with ‘My Favourite Poison’. Laden with strings and harmonics which are reminiscent of a James Bond theme, the track introduces thoughts of red dresses and foxtrots whilst evoking a sense of mystery and a heavy minatory tone.
‘Painted Legacy’ is a beautiful tribute which rose from a terrible loss experienced by the sisters and their family. The hauntingly wonderful lyrics are a fitting tribute to the joy and wonder experienced in life whilst providing a sense of morality and thanks for the ‘Painted Legacy’ which remains. ‘If There Were Words’ provides an almost somber and yet cheerful tone in a ballad-esque track providing another excellent vocal display. Acoustic guitar leads the melody and is reflective of the comfort the duo finds at home with a simple guitar and their powerful vocal performances.
To round-up an exceptional record are collaborations with Ex-Army and now chart-topping artist James Blunt, as well as impressive live vocal performance with Jack Savoretti. ‘Halfway’ has already seen great success on radio and fits strangely perfectly well into the track listing. Combining Blunt’s unique vocals with the harmonic talents of the duo has provided a unique and highly memorable track. ‘Human’, a live performance alongside Jack Savoretti, provides an opportunity for listeners to experience a live vocal performance of the twins. Although performed at the SSE Arena, the vocal display from the duo is extraordinary. Uniquely fitting to close the record is a cover of Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Landslide’. An awe-inspiring take on a classic track, the cover provides the perfect end to a highly impressive record.
Exceptional vocals, lyricism and tone are a speciality of the Hampshire duo. This record is the best yet from the twins who aim to produce a distinctly unique sound. Although sonically diverging from their country roots, the subtle nods to the genre, coupled with the genre’s unique place to build songwriters with a rare talent to build a story from within melody has enabled the duo to produce a truly exceptional work of art.
- Sweet Time
- Don’t Be A Stranger
- Open Your Mind
- Meant To Be
- Dear Me
- Hold Space
- Wait Up
- My Favourite Poison
- Painted Legacy
- If There Were Words
- Halfway (James Blunt feat. Ward Thomas)
- Human (Jack Savoretti feat. Ward Thomas – Live at the SSE Arena)
- Landslide (Fleetwood Mac Cover)