James Leclaire sings with a gritty voice (think Steve Earle but without the booze issues) and I’ll admit that I first thought it was affectation. James is a super friendly, clean cut guy from the Ottawa Valley, and to meet him is to meet a man with a big smile, quick wit, and really positive attitude. In short, this is the guy you want to invite out for beers…but you just know that he’d sing you a song as quickly as he’d volunteer to help you move house. He’s the Dave Grohl of Ottawa country music. And like so many great artists, he’s multidimensional; and successful at pretty much anything he tries. That includes some younger days in punk rock bands, that includes his day job, and that includes his very sincere and devout love for country and blues. This is no affectation.
Whatever pain and upset this guy has, he reserves it for his music, and the songs just soar. On this record, he had the excellent foresight to enlist local legend Matt Ouimet for production and instrumentation duties. Matt’s production is clean, and brings this full-band the professional sound it needs. Not that the band needs a lot of polish, as James has been working with The Cable 22s (drummer Michael Hunter and bassist Chris McLean) for years and years. They are a tight trio, and the addition of multi-instrumentalist Ouimet makes the sound a little fuller on record. Of course, Matt couldn’t have saved a batch of average songs. James has brought his A-game on this record.
Check out the track I Walk This World Alone, which not only has a great classic-70s country vibe, but a fun singalong chorus and some harmony vocals. This one should be all over the radio.
And this one, Back to the Wind, is about as punk/country as anything Hank III has ever done.
The whole album is a joy to hear. From rip rockers like Back to the Wind, to more traditional country numbers, it’s one of my favourite albums of this year. You can check him out at Bluesfest this year on July 3. Highly (highly) recommended. Pick up the album when you’re there, and see if I’m right about him helping you move. 🙂
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