East Tennessee-based Alex Leach, former long-time guitar/banjo player and vocalist behind Ralph Stanley II, only just formed his own band, along with his wife Miranda, in late 2019. But he’s already carved out an impressive niche as a front man.
Both husband and wife are powerful singers. Alex has an appealing and intense high-lonesome vocal style that’s slightly akin to a young Ricky Skaggs. His and Miranda’s voices blend beautifully on powerful originals like “The Game Is Always Different” (which she wrote), Alex’s lovelorn, “She’s On A Different Train” (cowritten with Jim Lauderdale and Jon Weisberger) and the dramatic “Wanderlust.”
Alex wrote, or cowrote, the majority of these selections, and both husband and wife prove to have vivid imaginations and a flair for intriguing lyrics. Miranda’s aforementioned “The Game Is Always Different” perceptively captures the maddening complexities and shifting emotional sands of modern romance. Alex’s “Today (Could Be My Last)” is charged with longing, mystery and pathos. “Up To You” is an insightful and philosophical ode to the power of positive thinking.
Particularly haunting and galvanizing is Alex’s “Lineman In The Rain.” It paints a stark and unflinching portrait of the survivor of a terrible tragedy who is paralyzed by guilt, fear and trauma.
Along the way, the band delivers quirky and imaginative takes on covers of a pair of classics: Joe South’s “Walk A Mile In My Shoes” and Paul Simon’s “Slip Slidin’ Away.”
For all the elegantly expressed deep thoughts and soul searching, there’s also a delightfully old-timey directness and immediacy to this music. And the picking throughout is dazzling.