(True North Records)
Leeroy looks a little like a missing member of Iron & Wine. On the album cover he is lying in reflective mode on his studio floor, surrounded by leads and gadgets. For this record and with Colin Stewart at the production helm, Stagger put together his dream band to record the material here. Drummer Pete Thomas – yes the Costello stalwart – is playing here, along with Neko Case guitar honcho Paul Rigby and keyboard stylist Geoff Hilhorst of The Deep Dark Woods. Retained on bass – Tyson Maiko. Leeroy says this new record of his sets a new high for him, as a writer.
Starting number I Want It All has steady acoustic guitar joined by mandolin and a deliberately catchy chorus. Hard not to clap along and we’re not a minute in. The song construction reeks of early Dylan, as if they cut another song after Rainy Day Women….
Love Versus is a strummed and somewhat winsome tune, sung solemnly over tremelo’d electric guitar and a piano weave, light-touch but emphatic drumming and a low-note electric bass pumping away. The melody is strong if melancholy. Next up is Enemy Inside with its insistent lope and pretty electric guitar motifs. Stagger sings with a world-weary talespinner’s tone ad it sounds good. I wonder whether the likes of John Prine or the later Buffalo Tom have been influences on this artist.
Crooked Old World uses a folky sway to create its vibe, the backdrop kept airy. Little Brother is rockier, with filthy electric guitar and a stabbing beat. Leeroy sings with an almost conspiratorial touch, as if letting us in on secret stuff we ought to know. It works well, could do with some strings, I venture. Run Rabbit Run is not the old music hall singalong, that tremelo’d electric is back and evoking Neil Young in Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere times. Maybe the best singing on the record, this is utterly convincing, good chorus and desolation is bottled. Sounds like a stage favourite in the making..maybe at dusk, down by the river…then this song takes a sprightlier path and is well-delivered.
There follows a song called Joe Strummer & Joey Ramone. A touch punkier in approach, Leeroy sounds driven on this. Perhaps you need to have lived in London in the late Seventies to have my perspective on Mr Strummer and Co, but he had his fans. I bet Stagger loves doing this one on stage. Living In The Future is probably my favourite on this collection, the singing is forceful without abandoning the tune and the band hit a tough Petty-style groove, making the composition come to life. $1500 A Day is a snappy and folky composition. Love the brush drumming and Lovin’ Spoonful style ensemble sound here. Things draw to a close with Until The End Of Time with its light Hammond and almost breathed-out vocal over acoustic guitar. The almost childlike tune is handled carefully by the group and the love floats out of this tune.
A mix of Americana songs sung with feeling and framed by a canny bunch of players who serve the songs.
(Thanks to Will M)
Leeroy Stagger’s new album ‘Love Versus’ is out now on True North Records.
To purchase the album and for more information visit his official website here: http://bit.ly/2sTjBJY