Leslie and the Badgers: Roomful of Smoke

As fitting an album title as we’ve seen in ages. Not only does the latest effort from Los Angeles ork-country outfit Leslie and the Badgers sound like a roomful of smoke, you can also taste the stale beer at the bar, smell the exhaust from the van that’s already on its way to the next show, and hear the sizzle of the overdone eggs at the diner that opens at 0-dark-thirty. The band doesn’t sound as rough around the edges as those hallmarks to life on the road might indicate; outside of singer Leslie Stevens’ Dolly Parton-ish twang, Roomful of Smoke is a very modern-sounding album that happens to be steeped in traditional country, which means lots of fiddles and broken hearts by the pound. (They even pull out a singing saw for “If I Was a Linen.”) “Winter Fugue,” however, sounds like a lost Jayhawks track, while the playful two-step “Don Juan” will surely be every scorned college girl’s best friend. It’s tempting to refer to Leslie and the Badgers as the real Lonely Hearts Club Band, but with songs like these, we’re guessing Leslie and her mates don’t spend much time alone. (Leslie and the Badgers 2009)

Leslie and the Badgers MySpace page


Lee Ann Womack: Call Me Crazy

Lee Ann Womack has been around for a while on the country radio scene, and while we can poke holes in the genre all day long, we can’t poke anything at someone who has a really good voice and who picks good songs to record. A lot of the music coming out of Music Row these days is absolute schlock, but Womack and her team have done a nice job of finding good material that suits her as an artist on her latest album, Call Me Crazy. In fact, if you take the twang out of Womack’s voice, a lot of the songs more closely resemble timeless country/pop along the lines of Crystal Gayle or Linda Ronstadt, especially on the likes of “Either Way” or “I Found It in You.” But she also has a Dolly Parton-ish throwback thing going on, particularly on lead single “Last Call,” “Solitary Thinkin’” or “The Bees.” Producer Tony Brown adds some nice touches and some of George Strait’s band on Call Me Crazy, and while there are no magical tracks such as Lee Ann’s smash “I Hope You Dance,” this is a more complete collection of good country music. (MCA)

Lee Ann Womack MySpace Page