The beauty of working in a pop culture-identified medium like pop music is that, while the music does initially have finite appeal as ‘new music,’ the basic structures and forms can easily be revisited, re-purposed and re-presented as often as new artists are willing to rediscover them. Any music can be reborn with the power of belief. Take King Leg‘s new album, Meet King Leg, for example; on his Sire Records debut, singer/guitarist Bryan “King Leg” Joyce re-contextualizes soulful warble of Roy Orbison (seasoned here with just the right amount of quirky Buddy Holly hiccup) and backs it with the post-modern country savvy of Chris Isaak to offer listeners an album which has fun digging roots which aren’t actually there beneath the music, but still manages to come off as truly engaging. In print those who have yet to experience anything from King Leg might be terribly skeptical but, even on first listen, the singer’s voice, guitar tone and demeanor can quickly be a captivating combination.
With that said, yes – as “Great Outdoors” opens the A-side of Meet King Leg, listeners will likely have to work at it to stop their eyes from rolling involuntarily as Joyce’s Telecaster guitar tone kicks both the song and the album into a slick and old-timey country-rock gear. That is not to say the tone or styling is bad – in fact, it’s really good – it’s just that it does roll along so easily defies belief. Here, everything about both the song and the band is locked down tight and running smoothly; there are no loose threads which may cause the song to unravel unexpectedly and there is no lyric which could really make a cynic scoff. It’s a difficult beginning for listeners but, by song’s end, listeners will find themselves softening and warming to the direction in which Meet King Leg might be headed.
With the first hurdle cleared, Joyce and his band just keep doing the same thing throughout the A-side of Meet King Leg. When the band is on, they’re dead on; through songs like “Walking Again,” the gorgeous and fingerpicked “Another Man” and the slow, love-lost (but dry-eyed) ballad which is “Comfy Chair” (which transitions seamlessly into the much more spry and energetic “A Dream That Never Ends”), Joyce and the band re-enact their impression of Fifties/Sixties-era country rock n’ roll and never leave a gaffe which would imply that their performance is anything other than genuine and true. Simply said, even if the band wasn’t being honest and heartfelt in their desire to breathe new life into this sound,they hide it masterfully and, when it does come time to flip the record over and restart the running fresh through the album’s B-side, listeners will find themselves doing so earnestly in order to see where the band is headed, and what sorts of fireworks may erupt.
…And the B-side doesn’t let them down. Here, the overall tone (a little bit country, and a little bit rocky too) endures but, where the A-side of Meet King Leg regularly mined the more emotionally deep and shadowy angles of the band’s persona, the B-side instantly begins as more energetic and remains that way. Those who got accustomed to the slower, more dramatic turns that the A-side took will be absolutely floored as songs like “Wanted,” “Loneliness” and “Seeing You Tonight” just dance out happily – sometimes contrasting the brighter instrumental tone against a few hard luck lines, but generally being of a better, brighter temperament than was the A-side.
Taken as a while, while it’s still occasionally easy to question how genuine King Leg was on this album, it’s impossible to not find some genuinely good cuts here which stand up easily to repeated listens. That said, that the album is not flawless could be chalked up to the fact that the band is young and still finding their way; just one album in, they’ve made a strong and engaging presentation and it will be very interesting to see where they go from here.
(Sire/Warner Brothers Records)