Leroy Powell and the Messengers
by Al Kaufman
Leroy Powell is so entrenched in classic rock that he makes the Black Crowes sound like Hannah Montana. This is tough to believe considering his resume. Powell has worked with the likes of David Allen Coe, Billy Joe Shaver, and Waylon’s son, Shooter Jennings. It seems like outlaw country would be his thing. But look again, and there he is also playing the axe for Lynyrd Skynyrd and Dickie Betts.
But none of that prepares for the opening two cuts on Atlantis; “I Ain’t Human” and “Tumblin’ Down.” Both songs are full of heavy, fuzzy guitars. “Tumblin’ Down” has a sort of Allman Brothers meets Deep Purple feel to it. And what metal girl wouldn’t swoon over lines like, “You’re the fire beneath the spoon/I’m the needle in the vein.”?
But Powell and his backing trio are more than big riffs. He almost croons on “Break It Easy,” in which the burly, bearded man shows his softer side. He gets downright psychedelic in “Evil” and “Gravedigger’s Blues,” both of which are filled with enough trippy solos to make any Deadhead a fan. He slips into revival mode for “One Kiss, One Love,” which comes complete with a gospel chorus. He even pulls off a soulful ballad with “When the Morning Comes.”
But southern rock is in his blood. “The House Is Rockin'” and “Look Out World (I’m Comin’)” — which opens with a ZZ Top-style lick — are both full of southern boasts and brags. Sandwiched between them is the tear in your beer country ballad “Family Tree.” It’s the kind of stuff that if you don’t enjoy women in tube tops, pick-ups, Pabst Blue Ribbon, tattoos, and fried food, you ain’t got no business liking this music. But Powell seems like a nice guy. He probably won’t care if you do.