Reading like a how-to guide for lovers of ol’ time music, Dunedin-based King Leo’s latest outing does what it says on the inside cover, ‘may this music revive and rejuvenate’. Combining a love of boogie-woogie, soul, doo wop, country, jazz, blues and ’50s rock n roll, it’s easy to see Virginia-born Leo LaDell is the real deal. He’s been on stage with Bo Diddley and Pinetop Perkins, and this is real southern revival that swings as much as it swoons, straight from the source. Heaven’s Right Here with its southern Baptist call and response vocal and Memphis sax solos could easily be mistaken for a early Ray Charles’ standard, whilst Prisoner sounds like a long lost B.B King live cut.
Recorded by Danny Buchanan at Albany St. Studios, produced and mixed by John Egenes at Red Planet, care has been made to stay true to the songs’ authentic sound. LaDell (vocals, guitar, bass, harmonica, piano and organ), Vernon Sawers (bass), Jim Strang (drums), Stevie Rice (tenor and baritone sax) and Ralph Miller on trumpet sound like they have decades of touring under their belts. Firing on all cylinders they sound like true survivors of the Chess Records’ era, stripped back they sound like the perfect Muscle Shoals’ session band. Closing instrumental Peanut Slab maybe provides the best example of King Leo’s sound, with its Duane Eddy guitar tone, ¾ dancehall waltz and fiery harmonica, it’s the kind of tune The Allman Brothers would have been happy to have written. Combining north and south might be their greatest strength, but bringing it all to our shores is their greatest gift.