The Texas country music scene is sprawling with various bands and it can be dizzying to keep up with all of them. Really it’s impossible. Today I talk about another group from Texas, The Leavelles. The band originally formed in the early 2000s in North Texas. It went through a few different iterations before forming the current group that makes up the band now. It’s a four person group made up of Frank Colwell, David Mahaffey, Joe McClour and Justin Russell. Once they settled this core group, they set out in November 2014 to work out the arrangements for their debut full length album, which at the time was set to have 15 songs. When they recorded it in February 2015 they narrowed it down to 10 songs and released Mostly True Stories on April 15. Today I take a listen to their debut album to hear if their brand of Americana/roots rock music.
The album begins with the acoustic driven “Something Old” deals with life and making changes as you get older. I think the instrumentation could have been stronger, as it would have elevated the lyrics more. “Maureen” has a rock country production that features plenty of electric guitar. It’s about two people named Maureen and Bobby, who grew up as outcasts mocked by the people around them. Eventually they cross paths and fall in love with each other. It’s a quirky love song that I find endearing. The one song I didn’t like on the album was “X’s & O’s.” I thought the production was too light and the cliché Rolling Stones references in the beginning were unnecessary. The “nah nah nahs” kind of annoy me too.
“Story of You” is a love song with some nice electric guitar riffs. While I think the theme and story being told in the song is good, I thought the lyrics could have been a little better at telling a descriptive love story. “Parish Hall” is a rocking song that is neither good nor bad. It needed more “oomph” to stand out and catch the listener’s attention. The Leavelles go back to the acoustic sound in “Fuzzy,” a song about life in general. Just like “Something Old” I think the instrumentation could have been stronger and elevated the song in the process. One of my favorite songs on the album is “We All Come Broken.” It’s about how we’re all born flawed and full of sin, so we all shouldn’t be surprised when we screw up. I enjoy the harmonies on this song and its something the group needs to do more on their songs.
The Leavelles sing of their love for country and rock music, along with the themes associated with each on “One Foot in the Pulpit.” They know both Billy Graham and Jack White. While I like that they’re singing from their hearts, it’s a little cliché. Being that they’re a group from Texas, it’s no surprise that The Leavelles would have a song or two about something from the state. Well that’s the case on the song “Wilmeth,” which is about trying to find the little town of Wilmeth, Texas. The guitars in the bridge are a nice surprise and I think this is the type of song that fits right into the group’s wheelhouse. The final song on the album is “Pack Your Bags,” which is a self-reflection song where the group sings about the tough life of being on the road all the time. This is especially true for smaller acts, as they need every gig they can get to keep their head above water and increases their chance of being recognized. The harmonica is a really nice touch and gives the song that bluesy feel, which suits the theme well. It’s a great way to close out this album.
I think The Leavelles certainly show some flashes of greatness in Mostly True Stories. I enjoyed the instrumentation a lot at times, but I wish it was more consistent throughout the album. I thought the vocals were good and even better when harmonizing. The lyrics were probably the weakest spot for me, as they could have been deeper and more engaging with the listeners. The Rolling Stones clichés are done to death and should be avoided in songs. Despite some flaws, does a lot more right than wrong and it’s certainly solid enough that I recommend giving a listen. This is just the debut album and I think the band is poised for better music to come. I think this is a nice start for The Leavelles and the potential is there to standout more.