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Jesse Dayton & Brennan Leigh
Holdin' Our Own
Stag Records
www.jessedayton.com
www.brennenleigh.com


The history of country music is steeped in the duet… there is a lot of precedence that has been set, and the new record from Austin, Texas' Jesse Dayton and Brennen Leigh continues in that tradition beautifully. Most closely resembling the golden duets of George Jones and Tammy Wynette, Dayton and Leigh's voices intertwine perfectly, meshing smoothly but with enough disparity to create tons of character. The songs on Holdin' Our Own range from honky-tonk waltzin' songs like the brilliant "Brand New Heartache" to more straightforward Tejano-styled scoot country like the album opener "Let's Run Away," with its chicken-picked guitars and Tornadoes-style rhythms. "Holdin' Our Own" moves into more modern territory, but contains enough mandolin and earnest heartbreak to remain true to the country creed. The hilarious "Two Step Program" recalls mid-70's swing country, with some amazing steel guitar and a jumping rhythm that lays a perfect backdrop for some amazingly twangy telecaster, along with perfect harmonies. Dayton's voice drips with resonance, evoking memories of the aforementioned Jones as he lifts out lines like "This barroom is the meeting place for broken hearts anonymous/ easy does it, one dance at a time is what they say to us/ one dance is too many and a thousand ain't enough/ well listen darlin', it's been rough," while Leigh's vocals stray a bit toward the June Carter Cash side of things. The duo cut into Hawaiian swing on the jazz-tinged "We Hung The Moon" before kicking into the guitar-heavy Jerry Reed-ish "Somethin' To Brag About," a true highlight of the record. As you might imagine, there is some serious Johnny/June vibe on the cover of "Long-Legged Guitar Pickin' Man," along with some guitar with the perfect balance of phase and twang, just like Luther would have provided in the golden years. Jumping to the end of the record, the duo turns out one of the finest honky-tonk swing duets in decades with the lovely "Everything Looks Good (On The Outside)." This song is a shining example of the fact that country music - REAL country music - is still alive and kicking, just not on the mainstream radio stations. Dayton's voice is resonant with just the right hint of twang while Leigh's voice is clear and occasionally growly, making for a perfect juxtaposition of textures. The songs are first rate, the vocals are simply beautiful, and the guitar playing swings, twangs, slides, and double-stops perfectly the entire album. This is an instant classic, and must-hear listening for any fan of country music.

-Embo Blake


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