Old Standards, New Directions is a mighty fine slogan for the The Easy Leaves - Or New American Music from the Western Edge. Full-Spectrum Americana also does the trick. And as elated as they certainly would be by these turns of a carnival barker, this fine tuned yet loose, crafty yet tender, down-home racket of The Easy Leaves travels endless country miles past tweety length, out catching any catch phrase. So if you’re interested in getting properly acquainted with The Easy Leaves, a good-listen to the music itself is the only way.
Their new record, American Times (Omega Records), spans the breadth of American roots music from grassland stomps, minor swings and Honky Tonk grinds, to personal spirituals, and Rhythm and Blues. One example of the latter mentioned influence, the track Fool on a String, holds its own with ease, a worthy reciprocal to The Rolling Stones’ Under My Thumb.
The album also has an anthem, Keep It Country. The cruising dreamscape Honky Tonk Magic flirts with Doo-Wop melody and speaks to a purer time, and the empyrean feeling of a love lost. The (almost) title track, The American, extra handsome and honest, is about acceptance of self, and of something bigger. Heathen is about a relationship with organized religion, and it “goes there” with matchless finesse. And if this record were a religion the central belief might just be that the spirit of a rowdy drunken celebration and that of an old-time revival salvation are not separate. But American Times as religion also wouldn’t try and force you to believe anything (maybe everything though? Maybe too it’d pull a shiny nickel from your ear, unscrew the top to the salt shaker, and help Grandma cross the street).
The Easy Leaves, songwriters Kevin Carducci and Sage Fifield, formed north of the Golden Gate in 2008 immersed in a diverse set of flailing rockers, gospel skeptics, and country outlaws. Their initial intent was to establish an old-time string band. However, this did not happen (at all). In love with just too many different musics, artists as disparate as Bob Wills and Smokey Robinson slinking into their songwriting, Kevin and Sage gave up their banjo habits cold-turkey. The Easy Leaves’sound was born- A modern acoustic sound, its roots kept close to the chest while tirelessly sprawling out in new directions that stretch the borders of the Country genre in exciting ways.
“Our sound is a personal distillation of American music, based on the styles we like and all the songs and sounds we’ve been saturated with.” The finest filters on this still are songs written with painstaking attention to detail and dynamic intricate vocal harmonies. They’re melodic, lyric-driven (catchy-as-all-hell) compositions pinned with the syncopated rhythm of two acoustic instruments, guitar and upright bass. A trap kit, and pedal steel – The whipped cream and cherry.
Live, The Easy Leaves beguile any kind of audience.
Now here, with the explanation wrapped up, you might have concluded, might say, These The Easy Leaves are bringing in from most any musical column – We’ve heard of these turn left then right types. You’re probably correct. From that you might then conclude, might say, A record that does that must not be focused – Why these The Easy Leaves can’t keep their hands out of the Johnson’s trick or treat candy. But then see, with all due respect, you are not correct. To the contrary it doesn’t get more honed-in than The Easy Leaves, than American Times. And to know this for sure, know what’s being talked about, give that good-listen a go.