LA based Leslie released her latest studio album “Sinner” last Friday, 23rd August, a really busy day for new music from female country artists as I’m sure you are all aware, so I must apologise to her that I am playing catch up and have only just given her music my attention! This Missouri native was a new name to me, but her beguiling vocals and wonderful lyrics, together with the album’s etherial sound, immediately both intrigued and impressed.
Hailing from Missouri, Leslie has been a fixture on the LA music scene for a while now, apparently fronting a female punk band (!) before forming her own alt-country band “Leslie Stevens and the Badgers” in 2006. The latter released two albums, with critics likening Leslie’s voice to Patsy Cline and Emmylou Harris, though my immediate thought on listening to her new music was Lindi Ortega! The band toured extensively throughout the States, including a showcase at the prestigious SXSW Festival in 2010, and this solo album from their front woman comes after Leslie took a break from the industry to concentrate on motherhood.
Its ten tracks were a great introduction to both her singing and writing for me, one of the stand out songs on first listen being the lilting “Teen Bride” which narrates the story of a young pregnant girl (who sadly miscarries) and her shotgun wedding. Written back in 2010 it was inspired by American politician Sarah Palin’s daughter Bristol who found herself in a similar predicament.
Another particularly powerful and moving track is “The Tillman Song”, inspired by a documentary Leslie watched about Army Ranger Pat Tillman who was killed by friendly fire in Afghanistan in 2004, the truth being withheld from his family for several weeks. Leslie obviously doesn’t shy away from tackling controversy in her writing. But there are also songs with a more familiar theme such as the surprisingly uptempo “love gone wrong” track “Depression, Descent” which has already come to the attention of BBC Radio Shropshire DJ Marie Crichton, who gave it a spin on her country show last week… and Ricky Ross recently played the album’s title track on his excellent BBC Radio Scotland show “Another Country” too, by the way.
“Sinner” is definitely the type of album you need to give your full attention to, and although you don’t spend the rest of the day humming any catchy hooks you will hear something different and probably very thought provoking with every listen. Throughout the album the arrangements are stunning whether it’s piano, delicate guitar finger picking or pedal steel, and like Leslie’s vocals, can be hauntingly beautiful while still packing a punch where needed.
Awarded “Best Country Singer” in LA Weekly’s ‘2018 Best Of’, Leslie has just begun a string of UK dates which includes a headline show at London’s Green Note on 3rd September, and a slot at The Long Road festival the following weekend, details below. “Sinner” is available to download/stream now wherever you normally access your music, and you can keep up to date with all Leslie’s news at lesliestevensmusic.com.
28. Pocklington Arts Centre – Pocklington*
29. Square Chapel Centre for the Arts – Halifax*
30. Junction 2 – Cambridge *
03. Green Note – London, UK – headline show
06-08. Long Road Festival – Lutterworth. Leicestershire
Article written by Lesley Hastings (https://twitter.com/LesleyHastings)