Sunday, October 4, 2020

Louisiana's LeRoux - One Of Those Days

Gotta be honest with you, I’d never heard of Louisiana’s LeRoux till this album turned up, despite the fact that they’ve been kicking around for 42 years - off and on, with one line-up or another.  Little wonder perhaps, given their peak success was way back in the day, since when it’s largely been confined to their home turf around America’s Gulf Coast.  But whatever their profile, seems to me these guys are good.
Not just good, in fact, but very much at ease with a sound of their own.  Now, an eight-piece band from the Deep South featuring two lead guitarists, two ivory tinklers, and a dude on percussion in addition to yer standard rhythm section, is likely to invite certain comparisons.  And yeah, Jim Odom and Tony Haseldon offer up a few stretches of guitar playing of a vaguely Allmans-like bent.  But that’s about as far as that particular comparison goes.
Louisiana's LeRoux - harmonies at the ready!
Figure this, for one thing.  In addition to lead vocalist Jeff McCarty – who has a strong, crystal clear set of pipes on him – four of these guys contribute backing vocals.  And another five fellas seem to have lined up to add their voices to the fray. (Including Bobby Kimball, original singer with Toto.  Hold that thought.)  So it’s no surprise that songs on One Of Those Days often come drenched in lush harmonies.  On ‘No One’s Gonna Love Me (Like The Way You Do)’, which is easy like the Commodores on a Sunday morning, the layered vocals are the primary focus, even if Rod Roddy chips in with a Rhodes piano solo and Messrs Odom and Haselden conjure up a harmonised guitar segment as a prelude to one of the many sharp guitar solos scattered across the album.  And on the punningly-titled ‘Lucy Anna’ (geddit?), with its strong hook the harmonies take on an Eagles-like hue over the shuffling rhythm.
These guys clearly know what they’re doing in the vocal department, and those voices are given an extra shine by the pristine, high gloss sound – which is no surprise when Jeff Glixman, sometime producer of choice for Kansas, is at the controls.  And in fact that kind of AOR-style polish might invoke comparisons with the likes of the aforementioned Toto at times, such as on ‘Lifeline (Redux)’ – 'redux' because it’s a reworking of a LeRoux toon from 1983 – which has a cracking melody to which McCarty adds interesting vocal twists and turns, while all concerned make the most of seven minutes to explore the possibilities to good effect while continuing to serve the song to good effect.
But if you’re thinking all this sounds a bit too sweet to be wholesome, they can toughen things up too.  Both ‘Don’t Rescue Me’ and ‘Nothing Left To Lose’ have a swagger that I reckon Ronnie Van Zandt would smile down on.  The former gives more space to punchy rhythm guitar, matched by a penetrating mid-range solo with plenty of tension and release, while the latter has a stuttering Southern funkiness, slide guitar injections, and a distorted, quavering guitar solo with a slick, modern feel.
They have a handy way with words at times too.  ‘Nothing Left To Lose’ offers the observation that “Love is blind, but it deaf and dumb”, while ‘One Of Those Days’ itself shakes up the old Eagles image of a girl, dear Lord, with a flat-bed Ford into the rather more lubricious “I saw an angel standing on the Interstate, jeans cut off clear up to heaven’s gate” – both tracks penned by Odom and Haselden.  The title track also benefits from some quasi-Latin rhythm courtesy of Mark Duthu’s percussion and Randy Carpenter’s drums, as well as plenty of fluttering licks from one of those guitars.
Fellow Louisianan Tab Benoit pops up to add lead guitar to the closing ‘New Orleans Ladies’, another retake from their early repertoire, which has something of a ‘Whiter Shade Of Pale’ vibe to it – NOLA style – but with more of those smooth harmonies adding to a soulful vocal from McCarty.
My other half loves great harmonies, and she gave this album a distinct thumbs up right from the off.  I have to agree with her – well, when don’t I?  Louisiana’s LeRoux are a bunch of greybeards who know what a good song sounds like, and what to do with it.  With One Of Those Days they really shouldn't be the Gulf Coast's big secret.

One Of Those Days ia available now, on Gulf Coast Records.

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