By Mike Dunn
True North Records
Too often, an artist focuses on using as many parts of their musical vocabulary on a record, without concentrating on defining their sound. Leeroy Stagger’s latest, Love Versus, shows his uncanny ability to meld disparate elements into his own, rough hewn roots rock sound. The result is an album that hits high notes in both songwriting and production throughout.
Kicking off with “I Want It All,” Stagger uses a friendly, “Hey Jude”-like chant to examine the dichotomy of want versus need. It’s interesting to set this question to a feel that has currency in the folk-punk style, as though it’s an advance answer to a possible critique, Stagger cleverly using a bit of the pop formula to skewer notions of commercialism while making motions to “tear down religion,” and in the end, seek balance in life and career. That’s a tight rope to walk, and Stagger pulls it off deftly. The title track follows up, with a slight, chiming chorus riff as a rhythmic counterpoint to the gently picked acoustic riff, not unlike a cut from The War On Drugs, before Stagger lays down a series of questions about the nature of power, and it’s influence in what we’re brought up to loathe and fear. The chorus, with its ascending melody and massive harmony, quickly sets a standard for the rest of the record.
On Love Versus, Stagger, along with producer Colin Stewart, and the crack band of Tyson Maiko, Pete Thomas, Paul Rigby, and Geoff Hilhorst have dropped an album that is immediately catchy and rollicking, but Stagger’s willingness to be unflinchingly honest with himself never loses sight of the bigger picture; our care for those close to us, and caring for the world around us are inextricably linked, and have more effect on us than maybe some of us are willing to admit.Leeroy Stagger, Love Versus, True North Records