A deeper look at the grooves pressed into the All Are Welcome LP by Lenny Lasley’s Gang Of One. After the events which have taken place in the United States recently, one would have to ask if the album title and the image which adorns the cover of Lenny Lashley’s All Are Welcome LP is indicative of the singer’s sense of humour. That will get listeners to give the album a try on the strength of curiosity alone, but what those who do put this album on their turntables will discover is that, yes, there is some punk running through it (a little like that of Against Me!, but a little less deliberately grating than that band is given to sounding), but also with some incredibly strong classic rock streaks running through it (like Springsteen, most notably) too. Even so, listeners are warned not to write the album off because of that point either (if they did, they’d probably mistake All Are Welcome for a Gaslight Anthem clone) – this album goes even deeper than that. Nothing about this album is simple, and that’s only one of its more endearing qualities.
As soon as needle sets into groove on the A-side of All Are Welcome and “Truth and Blood” opens it, listeners’ eyes will begin to widen involuntarily as they realize that what they’ve embarked on will not be an easy ride. There, alongside a thick and solid instrumental backdrop, Lashley presents himself as a bulky but tuneful provocateur as he knocks out lines like, “That’s right – I guess I’ll have to tell ’em that my heart ain’t in it anymore,” and illustrates that the exact opposite is true. Lashley stands strong and never falters here, but rather just rasps out this call-to-arms like everyone within earshot should be feeling the same way he does – and it works; the singer makes believers out of those who start with “Truth and Blood” beautifully.
After the stage has been set with “Truth and Blood,” Lashley never shrinks from the position he took with that first cut once as the side progresses. The album’s title track follows next and firms up the angle the band took with the previous track perfectly, with road-tested chops (similar to those that Against Me used to display in that band’s New Wave era) and melodies to match. Following that, the band gets a bit more ‘East Coast Canadian’ with the help of a well-placed accordion on “Live Like Lions” and holds that position through “Lonesome” – but with a more ballad-esque time signature and reflective vocal delivery, before finally closing the side with a classic melodic hardcore sound coupled with a sweet and melodic vocal. The easiest way to say it is that “Betty’s” is the best reward that anyone could possibly hope for in this context; the gruff but heartfelt tone of the vocals meshes flawlessly with the tempo and dynamic which pushes the song along, and listeners will find that they’re left ACHING for more after the song exhausts its two-minute runtime.
Of course (and unfortunately), All Are Welcome trips over itself as “Judy” opens the B-side with a much slower tempo and demeanour that is simultaneously injured and exhausted sounding, but Gang Of One recovers beautifully with the far more spry and exciting “Tomorrow May Never Come” and then throws a fantastic curve ball with the country western-infused “Double Minor” before closing with the “Peace In The Valley” resolution which is embodied by “Weakness.” There, Lenny Lashley is angled perfectly to make listeners smile as gang claps handle the percussion, an acoustic guitar handles the accompaniment and Lashley himself delivers a “Stand tall – you are not alone” kind of sentiment which plays serenely and closes the side.
As the record ends and the needle lifts from it, listeners may discover to their surprise that they may be exhaling heavily in reaction to the experience of listening to All Are Welcome. The album is solid and easy to get lost in as well as become engrossed by. Each song feels like a physical experience and, after ten of them, listeners may feel utterly drained. They’ll walk away satisfied though, and will know they’ll be back for repeated visits. That makes All Are Welcome a success, in any language. [Bill Adams]
All Are Welcome is out now. Buy it here, directly from Pirates Press Records.