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Tom Leach

Recorded Live – 1998 (Slow River/Rykodisc)

Reviewed by Brian Baker

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CDs by Tom Leach

In these blowdryed, tight-jeaned, factory CD in the shiny Ford truck country music days, songs as stark and honest as Tom Leach's four-track solo recordings are disorienting and ultimately viewed as an aberration. Granted, Leach's living room tapes are filled with bum notes and missed keys and strangled vocals, with a frequency and intensity that may render the resulting disc unlistenable to a good many country music fans.

Of course, they would be missing out on one of the most authentic country releases of the year, so original that it should have come out on a 78 rpm platter first. Vocally, Leach shares a weary tone with lo fi contemporaries like Vic Chesnutt and Jack Logan. But at the subatomic level, where the songs are born, Leach is more akin to forebearers like Hank Sr. and Johnny Cash, with nods to the quirkier works of Waylon Jennings and Merle Haggard.

Leach's songs are painfully evocative, as he swings from cheatee ("Confidence") to cheater ("Mr. Hang Up the Phone"), from damned ("Ice Below You") to saved ("Saviour"). And almost anyone could cover the patently brilliant break-up ode "Doris Days" and have a screaming hit, but that would be missing the point as well. Tom Leach is a rough hewn original and any softening of his edge would just be diluting the bourbon unnecessarily.