Like father, like son. Phil Leadbetter’s son Matt, a fine resonator guitarist himself, now gets his solo debut turn.
Predominantly an instrumentalist by trade, it’s not surprising that Leadbetter programmed five instrumentals among his thirteen tracks. The best of them, and one of the two best tracks here, is “Sassy Fras,” a slightly swingy and catchy number that uses a riff-call-and-riff-response form in the A-section, followed by a no-holds-barred ensemble B-section. Mandolinist Alan Bibey takes the opening, closing and between-solo statements, but Leadbetter, Tim Stafford, Andy Leftwich, and Daniel Kimbro flesh out that statement with fine solos. Also here are upbeat, propulsive nods to Jerry Douglas (“Fluxology”), Josh Graves (“Fireball”) and tradition (“Lonesome Road Blues”), all of them well done.
The remaining tracks find the soloists, Leadbetter included, in more supportive, almost sideman roles. That in no way demeans their contributions. That’s their role on the emotional “A Love Like That,” sung by Bradley Walker, or the sweetly melodic gospel song “Down On Your Knees,” sung by Leadbetter. To play otherwise would tilt the performance.
Tim Stafford’s sinister tale of a serial killer, “Down On River Road,” is one of the exceptions in which a bit of bravado soloing enhances the song’s story. An even better exception is the other of the album’s two best tracks, “Driving My Life Away.” A great song in its own right, it demands the soloists let loose and crow a bit, and they do. Leadbetter, Ron Stewart, and Sierra Hull all hit it hard and seem to explode from Marty Raybon’s lead vocals. And as they do, they raise the stakes on what is an overall good solo debut. (www.mattleadbettermusic.com)BW