Leeroy Stagger: Everything Is Real

RIYL: Ryan Adams, Matthew Ryan, Gabe Dixon Band

There are times when you just have to marvel at all of the great music that continues to funnel down from Canada – well, minus Celine Dion. In Leeroy Stagger, here’s a guy who has been toiling away for the better part of a decade, aided by being brought on tour as support for Hot Hot Heat. Stagger’s latest, Everything is Real, was released in 2009 and released in the U.S. in 2010 on Brooklyn-based 2:59 Records. If you’re a fan of any of the artist’s listed above, digging Leeroy will come naturally – his music is hauntingly old-school yet has a twangy alternative bent that is fresh and modern. And Stagger has that same compelling vocal drawl that is perfect for movie soundtracks. But wait, the songs – there isn’t really a clunker on Everything is Real. There are some real gems too, like the stunning mid-tempo “Sleep Alone” or the sing-along “Stormy.” Stagger also knows how to turn the volume way up, as on the blazing title track, which has a Ramones flavor; or how to turn it way down, as on the acoustic-driven “Snowing in Nashville.” If alt-country tends to be too country for you, and you like stuff that leans more “alt” with a hint of twang, then go check out Leeroy Stagger now. (2:59 Records 2010)

Leeroy Stagger MySpace Page


Mark Olson: Many Colored Kite

RIYL: The Jayhawks, Gram Parsons, Neil Young

Fans of the Jayhawks, Gram Parsons and Neil Young should be thrilled with Mark Olson’s new solo recording, Many Colored Kite. In fact, it’s Young’s early solo recordings that this album reminded me the most of. Olson’s deep, country twang, backed with compelling lyrics and solid music bring to mind such albums as After the Gold Rush and Harvest, albums grounded in country and folk, but with rock overtones.

Many Colored Kite is a pastoral affair. Olson has returned to the countryside, using nature as a theme and metaphor for the 11 songs on the album. Whether it’s a song about making it through a difficult time and finding rebirth in the world (“Little Bird of Freedom”), or it’s hopelessly romantic (“Beehive,” “Blue Bell”) or just a celebration of life and nature (“Morning Dove,” “Wind and Rain”), all of the songs are coming from a place of peacefulness in the singer/songwriter.

Music listeners unfamiliar with Olson’s solo output or his work as one of the co-founders of the Jayhawks may be off put by his singing voice upon initial listen. However, after repeated plays the melodies grow on you and create a soothing listening experience. Olson was definitely knee-deep in a ’60s experience when he recorded this collection of songs; you can definitely feel the peace, love and happiness he was experiencing come through in the music. (2010 Rykodisc)

Mark Olson MySpace page
Purchase Many Colored Kite through Amazon


Mark Stuart and the Bastard Sons: Bend in the Road

There’s something comforting about hearing the voice of one of your favorite singers, and Mark Stuart’s familiar husky, twangy vocals might be just that if you favor his brand of Americana. Of course, Stuart, former front man for Bastard Sons of Johnny Cash, has jaunted off on his own, calling his new project Mark Stuart and the Bastard Sons. The debut album of this project, Bend in the Road, is much more in the vein of traditional alt-country than Bastard Sons of Johnny Cash, a band whose sound at times bordered on alternative rock. Bend In the Road even starts with a cover, Billy Joe Shaver’s “I’m Just an Old Chunk of Coal,” but then features eleven of Stuart’s own songs, beginning with “Restless Ramblin’ Man,” a twang-fest if there ever was one, with its banjo and fiddle and slick three-part harmonies. There are moments that are pop/rock-tinged, like on “When Love Comes a Callin’” or “Way Down the Road,” as well as the blistering honky-tonk of “Miles to Memphis.” Stuart even turns down the volume nicely on “Carolina,” which also has some really nice pedal steel play. Depending on why you became a fan of Stuart or BSOJC, you’re either going to love this record or feel a bit cheated, but there is no question the guy can write solid Americana, and his voice is as strong as ever. (Texacali 2009)

Mark Stuart and the Bastard Sons MySpace Page


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