“One Bird, Two Stones” – Dick LeMasters
This is a very likeable album. The title track, for a start. Just the title defines a bad day at the office.
Given the fact that the guy is from Texas, is quite old, plays Texan country-tinged bluesy rock n roll, has got a beard and has a song on the album about a Buick you are dragged kicking and screaming towards the conclusion that this is going to be infused with more than a tad of ZZ Top, sold as seen, if you like. And indeed there is.
But it isn’t quite that simple.
The album leaps out of the box with the incendiary “Three Fifty Seven”, a snarling ‘death row’ blues with raw chunks of harmonica from Dan Moser, just one of a number of damn fine players featured on this album, which is as bitter and scary in the lyrics as it is raw and jagged in the playing. “Power in the Snake” has lyrical nods to Steve Earle but for me, you could hand that song to George Thorogood and the Destroyers tomorrow and they’d do a job on that for you.
He does a tidy line in ironic lyrics as well, with “The Wages of Sin” sounding quite ‘churchy’, on the surface, but actually, not. “Pestilence and Locusts”sounds a bit like a Crazy World Of Arthur Brown B side as song titles go but actually it’s a rather sad, rather bitter ditty about what happens when ‘the thing you love most becomes the thing that drags you down’.
And ‘Big Ol Buick’ does what it says on the tin and is an enjoyable listen.
And already you can sense a ‘But….’, right?
So what stops this from being the kind of album you ring up your mate and say ‘you’ve REALLY got to hear this…’ always assuming your mate is into that sort of ‘Americana’ thing, which in my view all right-thinking people should be.
Well, conveniently for me, Mr. LeMasters has been asked to review his own album by his PR man. And this is what he says.
‘I write songs with the intent that they will be songs that I perform at my shows. If ever I write a song which is good enough and it gets heard by the right person, some big-time singer might record it…’
And at this level, this all works just fine. You could take this bunch of songs out on the road in the good ol’ US of A in the bars, clubs and roadhouses and they’d work perfectly fine with the voice of Dick LeMasters doing the honours. The album has some very fine new songs, the songs are extremely well played (there is some really nice guitar and harmonica work on this, it really is a joy in places; I mean, “River Blues” is really rather special, for example) but his voice really is an adequate tool for carrying the songs and nothing more. So, and by the guy’s own admission, this works pretty damn well as a demo for his songs, a shop window for ‘big-time’ singers to check out his wares. And for his sake and for the sake of an extremely enjoyable if not exactly fashionable music genre, I hope someone does. At the very least he deserves a round of applause for not deciding to spend the rest of his life knocking out ZZ Top covers when no doubt he could.
But there’s your problem. Well, his, anyway – and the reason why this is a tough one to review.
Apart from the fact he’s already written his own review with candour and accuracy.
3.5 Stars out of 5.
Self-released and out now.