ALBUM REVIEW: Leroy does country/bluegrass Justice

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First Posted: 4/22/2013

With strong ties to Northeast Pennsylvania and a solid, opportunistic home base in New York City, Leroy Justice unveils its major label debut, “Above The Weather.” The band – straddling a flannel ‘n dusty tube amp fault line between pentatonic-laden ’70s hard rock and hip, Gavin DeDraw-type songwriting infection – embraces lofty, jam band-inspired musicianship as easily as it crafts memorable pop hooks.

The band’s goals on “Above The Weather” seem boundless. Take a track like “Up on the Mountain,” with a fragile-nerved vocal set to crisply plucked country/bluegrass acoustic guitar – the listener is mesmerized by frontman Jason Gallagher’s soft hint of redeemable mourning until around the 2:55 mark, when the band breaks the silence with a Zeppelin-like thud and Hammond B-3 gurgle, filling the remainder of the song with catchier-than-a-cold “na,na,na” backing salvo. The band takes frequent left turns, always seeming to lead somewhere better than the last.

“Blue Eye Blues” sounds what Maroon 5 might deliver with a bluesy, Bohemian slacker skin rather than retouched, Top 40 gloss – a great big analog groove with lightning-fingered guitar courtesy of Justin Mazer (known to NEPA fans of MiZ fame). Other standouts like the “After the Gold Rush” era, Neil Young-sounding “Watch Him Fall,” take a darker approach with the storyline of an addict spiraling into the depths of his own humanity (“See that man get down, down on his knees”). Through a slew of tempo changes and emotive crescendos, the band builds up its own mini “Free Bird.”

Taking said classic rock “endless jam” momentum to the next level is “Before I Die,” an eight-minute epic of Wishbone Ash/Thin Lizzy twin lead guitar bravado and psychedelic, Levon Helm-meets-Jack White Americana anxiety. Memorable is the single line Gallagher moans post guitar savagery upon the song’s end: “I’ve never been insane, but I hope I go there before I die” – simply put, the glorious tight-jeaned, hair-flowing mother of all rock posturing.

Leroy Justice won’t be a best kept secret for long. These guys have incendiary written all over them – they’ll please fans of anything from Mumford & Sons to Aerosmith – dynamic swagger for days, with enough indie credibility to get them through any door.

Leroy Justice ‘Above The Weather’ Rating: W W W W W