Three new releases from two experienced musicians at different points in their careers
'Plays More Blues, Ballads and Favorites'
In the follow-up to 2010's "Plays Blues, Ballads and Favorites," Jimmie Vaughan and Lou Ann Barton, with whom he appears on the cover of the new album, are clearly at home with their source material. Even if you're not a fan of Vaughan's other work, it's hard to argue with this outing, which delivers on the promise of its title with Vaughan's seasoned sound on "I Hang My Head and Cry," or his guitar in conversation with horns on "Greenbacks." Similarly, his voice couldn't match up any better with Barton's on "No Use Knocking" and "Breaking Up is Hard to Do." It's a refreshing collection from a veteran musician.
Since relocating to Austin from Houston a few years back, Leatherbag has one of the more consistent track records in town, so much so that it's kind of hard to believe that they haven't been able to find a larger audience on a national level. After following up the band's well-received 2008 album "Love and Harm" with a series of strong EPs in 2009 and 2010, the band is back this year with not one but two albums — a seven song EP and a full-length album. Both find the band offering up a sound that draws on classic rock like the Rolling Stones and the Velvet Underground without sounding like a bunch of guys that are good at covering "Rock 'n' Roll" but aren't capable of much beyond that. A lot of that is owed to lead singer Randy Reynolds' songwriting, which sounds fresh without being overly self-conscious or slathering on snark.
As on some of Leatherbag's previous material, the EP, "Patience," finds Reynolds pulling another classic rock move as he explores a fascination with the struggles of being young. "No Future" has a swamp rock feel, with a Creedence-style blues guitar lurking before giving way to Reynolds yelling like an angry parent. On "So Misunderstood" his barked out vocals are less angry, with a punchy delivery reminiscent of Alejandro Escovedo. And the title track could be a nicer, toned-down version of Lou Reed's "Vicious," with Reynolds showing that he's just as capable of subtlety as power. Though it's more or less being offered as a companion piece to a large collection of songs, "Patience," at seven tracks, stands on its own just fine.
That being said, "Yellow Television" presents a more unified sound. The opener, "Imitation Generation," sets the tone, with Reynolds reveling in his mission, going from singing "love is dead and so is rock 'n' roll/so I been told, so I been told" to "wanna make this feeling come alive, with electric, electric guitar wires." He's no middle-aged rocker longing for the good old days. Rather, Reynolds seems to recognize the challenge of creating something new at a point when most sounds that have been put on tape are instantly accessible via YouTube or other online portals. At times, such as the bouncy blues rock number "Modern World," he runs the risk of sounding a little whiny, but he manages to avoid doing so by keeping up a steady stream of rock 'n' roll energy, pausing only for a slow moment on "Sparrow Blues" and closer "Sincerity."
After nine songs, Reynolds seems at home with the fact that it's not easy to make his kind of music: "ain't never gonna be famous/and that's the way it's supposed to be."
Leatherbag performs at 5 p.m. Monday at Waterloo Records, 600 N. Lamar Blvd.