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)

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