There's a moment late in opening track "All My Life" where lead singer-songwriter Jason Gallagher pleads for a dream his voice betrays his doubts about. The only backing is sympathetic, dizzy organ and then a chest slamming blast of electric guitar pushes you into your seat. It's a classic "classic rock" moment, absolutely free of premeditation, careless, exposed and a little rough like all the music we associate with this subset of rock. And it is but one of many more such moments that follow. In Leroy Justice we find a modern band ready, willing and able to go toe-to-toe with The Faces, Lynyrd Skynyrd and the like, and their sophomore release, The Loho Sessions shows they're not prepared to give an inch to their ancestors in the face off.
Much like the massive growth spurt exhibited by obvious forebear The Black Crowes between their debut and Southern Harmony and Musical Companion, Leroy Justice's second album takes their heaping initial promise and molds it into a full featured, highly appealing band able to reinvigorate the basics in a way that rejuvenates one's love for melodic, powerful rock that centers on common things (loss, heartache, dreams, jealousy) with uncommon acumen. Captured with intuitive lightness of touch by the great producer John Siket (Phish, moe., Yo La Tengo) at the legendary, now-defunct NYC studio which gives the album its name, The Loho Sessions, in spirit, is actually closer to Skynyrd's justifiably beloved Second Helping - workingman's grub that feeds heart and soul in ways as effecting as whiskey and women.
Like the Crowes and Ronnie Van Zant's outfit, these guys excel at mid-tempo bittersweetness, and where one's manly pride says they should like the rockers best it's the stripped down, bruised honesty of "Bathroom Wall" and "Mickey" that one keeps playing over and over. That's no dig at the rockers like "Out To Sea" or "Patriot," which careen with bare knuckle whomp – Leroy Justice is pretty swell at all speeds. And no matter the mood, Gallagher is a primo singer, full of feeling and fire, flexible as young Rod Stewart, similarly serving the needs of each individual piece with a voice capable of great diversity. Like Rod, he's none too careful, emotions spilling every which where, the truth of each line sinking like a barbed arrow that hits its mark most times. Like many of my faves – Petty, DBT's Patterson Hood, Backyard Tire Fire's Ed Anderson – Gallagher reaches into his gut in a way that makes one's own innards shift responsively.
One of the main ways Leroy Justice succeeds and surprises is their neat curves tucked into the middles and endings of these songs. Often a concise, intense solo, beautiful dropout or eloquent yet succinct instrumental passage waits unexpectedly around a corner, details that further cement the feeling that we're witnessing the emergence of a future great that's already pretty fucking good. As sequenced, The Loho Sessions carries us along with seemingly careless grace. That they consciously put all this together but it never feels forced or overtly thought out is the mark of real artists. Rock of this ilk – bedrock, blues dappled, amp cracklin' tastiness – needs to be fun for the medicine of it to go down. The intensity of feeling here is married to music that's just plain enjoyable to imbibe. All bets are off for what record three is gonna be like but one feels confident in saying it's likely to be terrific based on this outing.