Discovered by Dwight Yoakam, King Leg is a whiz-kid from the West Coast who's got a knack for channeling Roy Orbison and "Sing Your Life"-era Morrissey with equal measures of success. Quite simply, one of the freshest voices I've heard in ages, the debut record from King Leg, called, appropriately enough, Meet King Leg, is the sort of thing that deserves a lot of attention and some real word-of-mouth praise.
As album opener "Great Outdoors" bursts forth in a blast of chiming, Byrds-ian glee, a listener should rejoice that somethings can still surprise. Building on the successes of the Paisley Underground bands from the Eighties, and from mentor Yoakam's stuff too, King Leg is here delivering music that's catchy and joyously melodic. If the deliberate "Your Picture" suggests some weird-yet-wonderful melding of the styles of Billy Bragg and The Proclaimers, the fine "Loneliness" sees King Leg sound less like Roy Orbison for a bit and more like a young, hiccup-y Buddy Holly. With a backing band offering up a sound that compares favorably to those first few Georgia Satellites tracks, the tune here is, like so much of Meet King Leg, a superb mix of genres. And while "Another Man" shows a softer side of King Leg's approach, the twang-y struts of "Seeing You Tonight" and "Walking Again" recall the fertile Eighties when listeners could find music like this coming regularly from both Los Lobos and Marshall Crenshaw. Still, all that being said, what surprises the most about King Leg is his voice; how could a singer like this only just now be getting some mainstream attention? And, in what only makes perfect sense given those Morrissey-meets-Roy Orbison-descriptions of this cat, he's added a cover of "Running Scared" to the selections here on Meet King Leg. A successful cover that Orbison himself would probably have enjoyed, King Leg and his band embellish the number with a rich backing track that suggests both the glory days of country music, as well as the sort of lush pop from the era in which Roy himself recorded most of his best work.
Meet King Leg is, quite simply, a blast. Delightfully retro and entirely of the moment, the record offers suitably appreciative nods to past pioneers while striking out on a sonic path that suggests something new altogether. Fans of BoDeans, Roy Orbison, and The Plimsouls, for instance, should find lots to love here. It is indeed rare that I can say I was surprised by something given the vast amount of music I routinely consume, but, dammit, this one caught me wonderfully off-guard. What a lot of fun Meet King Leg is!
[Photo: Emily Joyce]