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Leland Martin

Simply Traditional – 2002 (IGO)

Reviewed by Stuart Munro

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CDs by Leland Martin

The title of Leland Martin's debut nods toward the ways and traditions of the working man's life, but it's also a completely accurate description of the music contained therein.

The music is straightforward, hardcore country, and has the air of easy assurance that comes from three decades spent honing craft while working the bars and clubs. Not all of it works - the namechecking novelty song "If I Had Long Legs (Like Alan Jackson)" tries too hard, and "Hand-Me-Downs" aims for Boy Named Sue gender-bending humor but ends up being a little discomfiting - but a lot of it does, from the hard country play-on-words of "Freddie's Heart" (complete with cameo from Mr. Hart himself) to the dobro- and steel-laced minor-key lope of "Stone Cold Fingers" to a simply gorgeous, spare, acoustic version of the old hymn "What A Friend We Have In Jesus."

What really seals the deal here, though, is Martin's voice. A smooth baritone with just a bit of rasp around the edges to give it a distinctive complexity, it's a radio-friendly voice, and given the window of opportunity opened up by country radio's current desperation, it might just land him there.