Louisiana singer-songwriter Dylan LeBlanc, still only 22, has been attracting a fair bit of attention. He’s shared stages with Lucinda Williams and Bruce Springsteen and been praised to the skies.
His second album Cast the Same Old Shadow was recorded at Alabama’s noted Muscle Shoals Sound Studios (where Wilson Pickett, Aretha Franklin and Otis Redding laid down some great tracks) and was co-produced by three-time Grammy winner Trina Shoemaker. LeBlanc’s voice is husky and personable (he sounds a little like a blend of Ray LaMontagne and a young Harry Nilsson) and the band, especially Wayne Bridge and Melvin Duffy on pedal guitars, are good.
Yet it failed to win me over. All but one of the songs are LeBlanc’s. Part One: The End is dreamy in a True Blood soundtrack way and Brother is a strong song, and there are flashes are interesting writing on other tracks – in Chesapeake Lane, for example, about an alcoholic he sings: ‘But silence comes easy for a man like me/When I don’t try to see what others don’t see‘) but too often the lyrics feels like ersatz alienation.
Clearly, the image of a young tortured soul is one the record company are keen on promoting – the press release talked of LeBlanc “sharing his melancholy emotions” and getting so anxious about his fears “he tried to self-medicate”. I tried that once and got cough syrup down my shirt.
A suite of songs (ie, the mood is consistent throughout) of love and loss that aims for the austere mood of Gene Clark’s No Other and falls short only because it reaches so high.
This is desolate, guilt-ridden country-soul and, like LeBlanc’s 2010 debut Paupers Field, it shows a musical maturity way beyond its creator’s years. Still just 22 years old, it’s frightening to think what LeBlanc will do with his talent when it fully matures.