Sunday, 30 June 2013

Leeroy Stagger - Truth Be Sold Clubhouse Records

By exploring the roots of rock and fusing some exceptional guitar work with a bunch of songs that possess a stand-alone enduring quality, Leeroy Stagger has delivered an album to push the boundaries of alt-country rock. Right from the crashing chords of opener ‘Memo’ to the heartfelt strains of the fantastic closing ‘Jackie’, TRUTH BE SOLD is a high quality record. It will resonate immediately with those who approach Americana music from an alternative/indie background although there is sufficient diversity in its appeal to reach out across the genre.

Once again apologies for applying the term Americana to a Canadian musician but this expanding genre is an all encompassing home for any artist willing to pursue a path of interpreting roots music in a contemporary style. Leeroy has been doing this for a number of years since being introduced to country music during his British Columbia upbringing and this release, his 9th album in a prolific decade, gets right to the heart of putting a rock stamp on such high calibre songs.

For the UK promotion, Leeroy has teamed up with Clubhouse Records and this seems an excellent fit, with a similarity to some of the label’s other acts such as Dreaming Spires and Redlands Palomino Company. Their ethos of making no compromise music in a style that switches effortlessly between spine tingling acoustic ballads and vigorous up tempo numbers is true to an artist tipped to be a leading light in North American roots rock n’ roll.

Apart from the fabulous closing track, the depth of his ability to touch your soul in a softening manner is experienced in the exquisite ‘Celebrity’ where gorgeous backing harmonies decorate a cautious tale of fame. Along the same lines, ‘Break My Heart’, with its haunting pedal steel, adds a graceful touch to the atmosphere as does the temperate tones of the slightly solemn ‘Sold Me Down the River’.

For the more amplified numbers ‘Mister’ is hard to top with its gritty subject delivered in an appropriate vocal style laced with an element of anger. Although the slightly anthemic ‘Cities of Fire’, with a dose indie rock, runs it close and will surely be a firm live favourite when Leeroy takes this album out on the road. The more conventional rocker, with enhanced guitar solo, ‘Goodnight Berlin’ has a solid beat and is neatly slotted in as the album’s second track after the rousing opener. ‘Have a Heart’ is another track that meets the rock criteria and drives the album towards its sensational concluding number. Of the remaining tracks, ‘ESP’ starts off slowly before picking up pace mid song while ‘The Other Half’ admittedly does struggle a little to make its presence felt amongst the multitude of impressive tunes.

The album was recorded in Portland, Oregan under the stewardship of Grammy winning producer Steve Berlin (Los Lobos). Fellow guitarist Evan Uschenko and percussionist Nick Stecz share the writing credits with Leeroy on all eleven tracks although some of these were extracted from the vault of distant demos. UK fans both new and existing will get the opportunity to hear this impressive record live when the full band play a series of shows throughout July. Both this album and the subsequent live shows will add value to any Americana fans listening experience.

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