17 May 2011


I've had the new James Leg cd titled Solitary Pleasure  sitting on my desk for weeks.
Mocking me. 
The tense, yet meditative cover depicting two hands, fingers intertwined. Waiting. Patiently. 
Listening a couple nights ago it finally struck me.  
This is the album I've been waiting for from James Leg since day one.
  As you might know, James Leg co-helms with the drummer Van Campbell, The Black Diamond Heavies (BDH).They rule as East Nashville's dirrrty soul blues boys. Listen, I'm a drummer and I don't much like other drummers. Whatever. That's kind of a dick thing to say but It's not personal. With most other drummers I hear what they should have played. Campbell always plays what should be played. That's why he's arguably my favorite drummer working today and why it took me some time to connect. I missed the sound of Van Campbell. 
I know, right? Pfft. I digress. Sorry James. Let's start:

A warning siren wails through a blast of feedback and James Leg makes it clear that this is his new thing. And it's gonna get loud. Track one is the low-down grinding sandpaper howler Have To Get It On, which slides hard into the Sexxxy stony booty moving moaner Do How You Wanna*, which falls to the old-timey piano balled of Nobody's Fault But Mine. With that three song baptism  James Leg makes a seasoned and strong return. 

Whatever It Takes is a totally delightful surprise. It's like nothing you've heard from James Leg before. An English-infused, horn-augmented, pure pop, bitter-sweet soul nugget. In a better world this song would be a hit somewhere. 
This is music played by an envelope pusher who has terrific musical taste. A man Sinatra would have called,"broad minded." It's really been a pleasure listening to this guy grow as an artist. I've been following him for years now and while each of the BDH albums have been a step forward this album is a long stroll and roll forward. 

Solitary Pleasure is ingrained with James Leg's extensive knowledge of the rock and roll canon and the album displays his passion and originality to full effect. Granted, Leg's gargled-with-goat vocal style could be an acquired taste, but it's also a quality instrument that, like his keyboard work, will prove powerful, yet supple and dextrous over the course of the album.
Imagine Tom Waits doing Bobby "Blue" Bland covers.
There's some wonderful Waits-ian weirdness  spread throughout and Leg takes some good chances. Perhaps some efforts succeed more fully than others, but these are James Leg's ladies and he works them properly.

I'll tell you what: I have no idea where drummer Andrew Jody came from but he rocks, drives, and follows Leg's lead like Leg's ghost. Ace job, sir.

The barrel-rolling gospel piano rave-up No Time To Tarry ends the album. It features Leg on piano accompanied by tambourine. A nod to our man's righteous upbringing, perhaps. It's in him. It's hot and bound to seek release.
One of the things I dig about Solitary Pleasure is that it sounds like freedom. It sounds, from beginning to end, like he was having a great time and would be happy to kick if it serviced the song. He and we are rewarded by that ethic.
Solitary Pleasure is an album that bleeds rock and roll, from dirty garage blues to  potential old skool AM radio hits, to 1969 Detroit (occasionally played at the same time) then filtered and distilled by James Leg. 
We've got this movement of folks around the world who've absorbed punk, metal, electronic music, and all of it's mutations, then walked and wallowed backwards thru hill country hard blues, deep  soul, primitive gospel, and rare early rock and roll. These folks, like James Leg, like it raw, rough, and real.
James Leg's Solitary Pleasure reminds us why he is a Vice-Lord and High Worthy Icon of that movement. 

James Leg - Solitary Pleasure - Drowning In Fire - mp3
Listen. James Leg deserves our money. You know it. I know it.  
Alive Records brings us more good music than any of us should be allowed to have. They need and deserve our support. Some folks you back up. 
Go to the shows, buy the merch, support art.

*Hey- Will somebody please tell me: Who the hell is Dillon Watson?  According to the liner notes the dude plays, "Impromptu Guitar Wizard" on Do How You Wanna. This track is fully frkn epic. The howl of his tone made me walk with a limp. Like i'd fallen while dancing to The Stooges playing P.Funk's Maggot Brain (that never happened so don't freak out). Anyway,on this track Watson plays Thee Best Guitar Solo I have heard in years, then makes no other appearance on the album. Wtf?


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