No Room At The Inn - Leadfinger (Citadel)
The odds were stacked against Leadfinger delivering two killer albums in a row but only a fool would have laid down their readies against him. Here's 11 songs of blues-rock swagger with classic influences, all processed through Stew Cunningham's personal musical blender.
Those influences are fairly evident here so let's kick a few around. "You're So Strange" and "Gimme the Future" show "Let It Bleed"and "Exile"-era Stones touches, especially in Chloe West's wonderful backing vocals. There's a call-out to the late Rory Gallagher in the credits and you could read his guitar playing into any number of the songs. (If you don't know Rory or his pre-solo band Taste, go to Google and make a beeline for a solo album called "Jinx". That is all.)
There's a big dose of Groovies pop here too while "The Other Ones" gives the most obvious of nods to the MC5 before walking around in its own skin. You could go on, but these songs do a pretty good job of standing on their own two feet. The band's sure-footed confidence and Cunningham's soulful vocal, and highly lyrical guitar-playing, underline the strength of the songs.
There's a quotient of mid-tempo rockers like the stinging "Cruel City" (which could have easily sat in a Brother Brick or Yes-Men set list) and "It's Much Better" the most prominent, but Leadfinger aren't afraid to step outside the boundaries. "Segue Three" is a haunting instrumental that leads into the Celtic-tinged title track. Tour narrative "The Lonely Road" delicately builds to become a muscular rocker.
If you're looking for trademark Leadfinger guitar, go to "Gimme The Future". The lyrics aren't the only thing referencing the Stones here; Stew's playing on this one leans to the Mick Taylor rather than Keef side of things.
"The Wandering Man" is a widescreen effort that would demand airplay in a more enlightened world. Ultimately though, "Pretty Thing" is the real pop star in this lot, chiming in just past the album's mid-point and commanding you to lighten the fuck up. "Don't Think Twice" is a bright closer that recalls Big Star's chiming guitars.
The production is free of studio flummery with vintage gear the basis for a well balanced twin-guitar attack. You'd go a long way to hear an album that sounded like this - 30 years backwards to be precise - but that's the point. To go forward, you sometimes have to look over your shoulder. Needless to say, you should make a beeline for the Citadel mail order shop and make a copy yours.