Hailing from San Francisco, Sweet Lew and the Sweet and Lows are a trio of California boys bringing classic blues sensibility to the west coast. Backed by guitar, percussion, and saxophone, lead singer Lewis Gallardo howls out his pain and frustration with a voice full of raw passion. Still in the fledgling stage, the group has spent most of their time playing small shows around the Bay Area, but their newest release proves that they are ready to bring their version of sweet soul to the masses.
Sweet Lew’s debut EP From Scratch, out just a few days ago on Howell Records, is a small, yet spirited package of songs. Throughout each track, the melody is traded between the saxophone, the blues guitar, and Gallardo’s soulful voice. The EP begins on a defiant note with “Hard Knock,” in which Gallardo growls out a warning to a romantic partner: “Somebody told me you’re gonna leave me / You’re gonna find somebody new / You better get your shit together / I’ma find another you.” As the track grooves along, Gallardo bids his partner good luck, but not without a twinge of bitterness. “Cigarettes” follows, beginning with an upbeat sax hook and swinging into a slow blues tempo for each chorus. Belying the lighter sound, the lyrics echo the themes of loneliness and vulnerability: “And I need someone to hold me / Like I was a newborn baby.” The third track on the album, “Popeye,” starts out in a tongue-in-cheek fashion by paraphrasing the eponymous cartoon character: “I am what I am, what I say that I am.” Layered over a blues triplet, Gallardo laments a general lack of belonging and professes his loyalty to the one person who understands him. Closing out From Scratch is “Brown,” a track that tackles the discrimination that is still rampant when it comes to skin color. Gallardo resentfully details the daily instances of this discrimination, like being asked where he’s from. In the chorus, Gallardo pointedly asks, “They keep telling me it’s gonna be alright / What if it’s not gonna be alright?”
Sweet Lew and the Sweet and Lows may be only starting out, but their pure passion is sure to fuel them into the next stage. If From Scratch is any indication, Sweet Lew is poised to pluck heartstrings all over the country.