Leroy From The North – Toughen Up
At first, this set came on with some heavy-handed instrumentation but when the vocals kicked in the bluesy roots-oriented escalation was clearly evident. The guitars went into a chiming mode & lead vocalist Eli Wulfmeier transforms his voice into a nice Allman Brothers-Lynyrd Skynyrd shape.
“Youngblood” & “Homemade Crosses,” both have Southern Rock torque & sensibility. The band is tight & they do have a down-home clarity in their showcase. Lots of catchy guitar riffs & instinctive arrangements make each tune attractive to a party-listening audience.
Produced by Eric Corne the 9-cut Toughen Up (Drops June 23–Independent) has a typical J. Geils Band-Fabulous Thunderbirds type title & at times L.A. Americana-roots band Leroy From the North even dips generously into those bluesy thickets. “White Knights,” is more Fabulous Thunderbirds in tradition but the variety of sound this unit provides is impressive.
An excellent balance of transformative grooves. There are so many reminders of past bands, but none are copies as much as tendencies. There’s even a rockpile of Jason & the Scorchers & Southside Johnny & the Asbury Jukes that runs through their repertoire. But this all renders their appeal into a remarkable effort with a good self-reliant style.
OK, maybe this isn’t the rock direction that many younger people listen to today. But the set is entertaining & the drive is steady. This is more about understanding & appreciating a glorious rock idiom than what’s “in today” & what isn’t. I’m always surprised how I could be playing an old Elvis song & a 10-year-old standing by asks who is that?
“Top Ten,” is a funny tune but the groove is stirring. It grinds nicely, this is where the Del-Lords, Beat Farmers & J. Geils Band aesthetic is rich. It’s a crisp style, country music with literate lyrics & with a degree of attitude. It’s too edgy to be Poco or the Marshall Tucker Band. But it may be just shy of what the Jacksonville, FL band Blackfoot once cultivated.
Originally from Michigan, Eli has a genuinely warm ballad voice (“Laid Off”) & all the performance qualities line up. There isn’t anything revolutionary here, not even controversial though Eric does address some issues in his songwriting. He maintains a classic tradition of music with originality in an appealing manner. Funkier is “Toughen Up,” with all that Southern Rock exuberance & full-thrust finesse. The final cut “Hard To Last,” has a beautiful Gregg Allman-type vocal that is performed with expertise. A wonderful song from an engaging album.
Highlights – “Youngblood,” “Homemade Crosses,” “White Knights,” “Push,” “Top Ten,” “Laid Off,” “Toughen Up,” “Pawn Shop” & “Hard To Last.”
Musicians – Eli Wulfmeier (guitar/vocals/keyboards), Matt Tecu & Jason Ganberg (drums) & Adam Arcos (bass).
Color stage image courtesy of adventure_darin. The 33-minute CD @ https://www.leroyfromthenorth.com/