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Leeroy Stagger
Depression River
Boompa Records
www.leeroystagger.com


Among the current crop of alt-country/Americana songwriters, Leeroy Stagger stands out above most of his peers based entirely upon the depth of his storytelling abilities. While Stagger's voice and guitar playing both recall a younger Steve Earle or perhaps Heartbreaker-era Ryan Adams, the songs that he writes are more akin to the earlier works of Springsteen or John Mellencamp. The tales of rural American life are rich and vivid while the accompanying music is gutsy and low. The songs on Depression River wind their way through sonic territory familiar to fans of today's roots-based music, from gritty electric blues to haunting and sparse Appalachian folk.

The early songs on the album stick to the more rocking sounds made popular by Steve Earle and the like, and on tracks like "Depression River" and "Wish You Were The Trees" the beat and the tone of the guitars would easily carry the weight, but there is a fantastic depth to the writing, as well. "Gonna take a walk to Depression River/ we're gonna walk across to the other side/ where evil roams and bodies wander/ three kids got killed that year and one of 'em was my brother/ three kids got laid in dirt that March by their fathers and their mothers." Stagger emphasizes this darkness with a gutsy, thick guitar line pounding above a hard-driving rhythm. But this album has more up its sleeve than rocking alt-country. "Best Mistake" is perhaps the shiningest example of not only Stagger's brilliant ability to tell a story based around simple, loving observations, but his talent at weaving a lightly dense acoustic Americana sound complete with mandolin, slide guitar and meandering piano. The beauty of this track is immense, and the vocal depth recalls Ryan Adams' finest moments from the salad days of Whiskeytown. "Saskatoon" has a higher, lonesomer sound complete with some great steel guitar licks and a howling soulful vocal.

There is a breadth of musical styles and songwriting ability found on this new record from Leeroy Stagger. His writing is filled with literary allusion and a good dose of literal rural storytelling, creating a collection of songs that can appeal to Americana fans, as well as those that just really like a good song. And I really like a good song…

-Embo Blake


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