Boy Leadfoot: “Turn-Buckle” will carve out a steady cult following
Max Gordon with Boy Leadfoot is a three-piece blues-based, alternative soul and rock project, from Vancouver Island, Canada. Their latest release, the EP “Turn-Buckle” is a breath of fresh air compared to the pop dribble permeating the American music scene right now. This is the type of musical project that will carve out a steady cult following and attract a good deal of critical acclaim. All three members are very professional and innovative musicians, and musicians of any sort will gobble up all kinds of licks, tones and spices from this release. The EP resides in the nebulous nexus of blues and alternative rock, leaving us to wonder what the hip blues sound like and how to get down to the blues hop.
Boy Leadfoot make a wonderful lazy mix of blues and roots rock, where keyboards flow with groovy drums, killer bass hooks and strummed guitars; the vocals are on the laid back but fully dynamic side, and are always ready to reach up and out when needing to switch towards a more urgent register.
Smooth, slick and graceful, “Swallow” opens the proceedings and is a fantastic back-to-basics effort. Employing effortless songwriting skills that mix in a cadre of guitar tones and subtle-yet-perceptible organ flourishes, the record finds the band wholeheartedly playing to their strengths and sounding great while doing it.
By the time you hit play on the second track, “Sun-Shine” which is as fresh and smooth as a peach, you realize there is simply nothing else that sounds quite like this right now; it just clicks into a unique sound. It swings, it rocks, it grooves, it flows – it simply works.
Whether cruising on a road trip, kicking back with family & friends on a lazy summer night or out on a date and trying to set the mood, this track feels good and enhances the positive vibe. Bare to the bone, “Take Easy” is raw, gritty, honest, and beautifully simple. This track exemplifies everything wonderful in Boy Leadfoot’s music. Smooth, supple, and the very sonic incarnation of another intriguing summer’s day jam, with its hypnotic lead guitar motif and intoxicating beat.
“Melting” is practically a case study in Boy Leadfoot’s distinct flavor of effortless cool groove, as the track unfolds at its own pace. This Vancouver Island alternative blues project doesn’t lose time in getting worked up by a sweet groove and some exhilarating melodies.
“Made To Last” presents Boy Leadfoot at their finest, laying down a smooth lyrical flow over beautifully acoustic guitar riffs and rhythms. For all of their laidback, blissful sound and soulful vocal delivery, don’t for a minute make the mistake of consigning them to the middle of the road, as musically they are too profound for that.
This is a return to the beginning, where musicianship and creativity was once off the wall in every project. Deconstructing crossover blues preconceptions, Canada’s Boy Leadfoot are thematically on fire, daring to integrate the blues into alternative flavors, while subtly tearing up the joint, jamming and jiving in the coolest possible manner.
These songs don’t even need over the top lyrics or any radical statements more than the message in the melodies – simmer down or move to the powerful groove. The songs on “Turn-Buckle” are perfectly crafted, every single one! Presenting the evolution of the blues, Boy Leadfoot is just too damned different not to have in your collection.
Boy Leadfoot – Turn-Buckle – EP Review
Jer @ SBS
Part of me thought I might be finished for the day…I was all ready to hang up my spurs and rest on my accomplishments from earlier on and just about to stop typing for a moment or two…and then I put on the Turn-Buckle EP by Boy Leadfoot…and then like, what else was I supposed to do once the first track “Swallow” started up? Was I supposed to somehow not get lost in that insatiable groove like anyone else would be? There’s no escaping hooks and smoothness like that as far as I know of – that’s straight cool flowing through your speakers is what that is…and an immediate enticement to listen to whatever the heck might come next from this artist out of my old stomping grounds in British Columbia, Canada.
Because that bass alone and the melody he creates would have been enough to sell me…the fact that “Swallow” has so much more to offer through the brilliant character & personality Boy Leadfoot brings to the vocals & guitars just made the deal that much sweeter to experience. Without a doubt – this is as charming as an opening track can get…stylistically oozing cool and sincere melody that hits the mark. And you know what else? I didn’t feel like this guy reached for a single cliché along the way here…the writing is fresh, the vibe is loose, there’s a serious nod of respect to throwback sounds and a modern day relevance here that can’t be denied – for real, who could resist “Swallow?” Can you? If you can, you’re made of that…hmmm…what do they call that stuff again? Right! Steel, hurt feelings, and bone char. Something like that anyway. You get the point – “Swallow” is completely irresistible, both for the smooth sound and enticing, inviting, & warm grooves in the music and for the way Boy Leadfoot sings it. The way the guitar kicks-in those extra hooks during the chorus is the icing on the cake here…the same cake you were gettin’ all gluttonous on & stuffing your ears with already…cause obviously it’s not cake at all but extremely awesome music & songwriting, with a flawlessly organic single-worthy melody. From the moment it came on and about ten seconds in, I knew I’d be here writing more words today.
Happy to do so when the music is this good. “Swallow” is one of the best openings to a record this year. The kind of song that’s so strong, anything else coming afterwards should nearly feel threatened or intimidated to come through the speakers in fear of not living up to expectations. “Sun-Shine” isn’t “Swallow” – I can’t pretend or lie to ya about that – BUT – there’s very few songs out there that ARE a “Swallow” really…that’s an exceptional level of cool being reached there. “Sun-Shine” does as good a job as any song could coming after that extraordinary opening…almost like a combination of Ben Harper, The Getaway People, and maybe a bit of Hendrix or Cream in there for good measure. Impressive solo and highly unique choices being made there by Boy Leadfoot; this man is nothing else if not completely stocked with personality all-around. You get the sense from “Sun-Shine” that he’s more than happy doing what he’s doing…he sounds genuinely like he’s having fun, enjoying the moment, keeping it loose but keeping it focused at the same time. I could see some people freaking out a bit production-wise when it comes to the chugging noise of the guitar effect bleeding into the track here – but I’d argue this is a move done purposefully…and a masterful choice in going about how to make this vibe even cooler. I dig how you can hear voices in the background, just slightly…unless those are the ones in my head again. Maybe I shouldn’t print that just in case. Okay…I’m like, 99% sure there are background vocals that are roaming around through the mix here that are not of my own making…and as confusing as that may be for the barely sane & holding-on like myself, it’s also completely part of what makes this track so real!
Again…I’ve said it already here today, but personality, charm, character – it all counts for so much in the music Boy Leadfoot is making. Listen to the swagger in the hazy rhythmic flow of the vocals on “Take Easy” – and as IF you needed another reason to love this track any more than you already did from the very first moments where the guitar started hooking you in! It’s okay folks…you can admit it…I’ve completely succumbed to just how cool this dude is too…we’re all friends here in the ‘I got quickly addicted to the stylistic sounds & songs of Boy Leadfoot’ support group and I understand what you’re feeling entirely. “Take Easy” probably has the most balance of the first three tunes in the sense that both the music and vocals really keep it an even playing field for what might catch your attention; but for the record, we’re pretty much splitting hairs…these first three songs really don’t have any weak points and provide serious entertainment you WANT to repeat and listen to over & over. And I fully recommend that you do…I’ve been lost in this EP for a while now and don’t really wanna ever leave it. “Take Easy” is a solid example of just how much the uplifting vibe plays a role in the Boy Leadfoot sound – this infectious rhythm & groove is pure fun; well-played audio-enjoyment designed to be turned up.
Of the first four, the least accessible cut is probably “Subtle” – but don’t let that make you think it’s not worth listening to…it might very well end up being your favorite over time. Borrowing from the Blues, Boy Leadfoot puts in a seriously impressive turn on the microphone, winding words around the beat like he’s the MC Escher of lyrics, leading you into the flow & rhythm in that charismatic style we’ve already come to love. He’s nearly trippin’ right out into Beat Poetry here…retaining just enough of the music around him to keep it a song and not a rant or freestyle poem…but you get the idea, the vibe runs a bit looser here. The focus and musicianship remain tight as ever…but writing-wise, Boy Leadfoot’s less concerned with writing flashy hooks for sure…”Subtle” is kind of what you’d assume you’d hear from the man just lettin’ it all hang out and jammin’ it up. Nothing wrong with that…like I said, plenty of reasons to listen to it still; great flow to the words, smart hooks in the guitars, solid rhythm section keeping it real the entire time as the major backbone in this song. Due to the bass & drums being so stoic & reliable, the vocals and guitars get license to get a bit wilder and roam even further…which I like too.
The bass led groove of “Melting” is solid to listen to…dig the filters on the guitars there too. Wasn’t quite as pumped on the words or vocals when it came to this particular cut, but I’ve got no real beef with it either…Boy Leadfoot seems pretty reliable when it comes to straight-up sounding good. Best way I can put it, is that “Melting” felt a bit more forced in comparison to the surrounding five tracks on the Turn-Buckle EP; where the other tunes all seem to come by their high-dosage of cool organically, “Melting” felt like the focus was a bit more on creating something purposely flashy. All I’m saying is that Boy Leadfoot doesn’t NEED to try…I think the cool-factor is completely built-in here…the more he lets it flow out naturally & unforced, the better off and more sincerely engaging that music is always gonna be. Like at the very end, where redemption comes for the Turn-Buckle EP in the innocence of the final track, “Made To Last,” the EP’s shortest tune. This is a wonderful ending and a serious highlight on the EP – probably one of my favorite performances from Boy Leadfoot in the vocal department as well. Those guitar notes steal the freakin’ show here though…or at least almost…MAN do they sparkle! If it wasn’t for all the incredibly awesome stuff happening in the background & lead-vocals of this tune, those guitars would easily walk away with the award for top honors as the star of the show on this last track – but facts are facts, there IS an amazing amount of contributing layers that’ll both captivate & thrill ya…those guitars might just have to settle for being on a team full of excellent sounds creating this vibe. A solid finale to a record that’s really offered something different than the rest of what’s out there right now; combined with the pure passion and clear enthusiasm that Boy Leadfoot has for making music – it feels like we’ve stumbled onto something special here – the Turn-Buckle EP is a true pleasure to listen to.
Founder & Editor @ Stereostickman.com
Turn-Buckle is a brilliant little playlist that introduces the Boy Leadfoot sound (for those who are new to it) in a confident and established sort of way. You get a sense that this is the music that comes naturally to the artist, so this, combined with these folk-rock, acoustic ska rhythms and vibes makes for a totally enjoyable and reliable EP.
The soundscapes that come through have a definite freshness in terms of the subject matter and the sense of character given off, but at the same time, there’s a likable, vintage crackle to the recording – a low-fi or simply raw presentation-style that offers about as close to the live experience as possible, which simply adds further to that authenticity and appeal.
Swallow is the opener and drives with a joyful bass-line and a sort of romantic aura that lets the song itself float peacefully out into the room. This feels like something that would suit the stages with Sublime, John Butler Trio or Will and the People – there’s even a flicker of Arctic Monkeys later on. It’s a great song, indie-pop meets mellow ska with an entrancing groove and melody. What’s good about it is all of this, what’s great about it is the freely expressive sense of structure – Boy Leadfoot has crafted this, built it up brick by brick, and kept it soulful, metaphorical, and thoughtful; all in the same instance.
Sun-Shine drives with the soulful, sleepy swagger of an electric guitar part. The song then offers a distinct layer of space, a dramatic indie-rock pause, within which the artist’s now familiar, comforting leading voice – carefree, laid back, calming – can pour these deeply reflective ideas through. The lyrics perhaps aren’t as laid back as the voice sounds, but that makes it more interesting for me – another Sublime-like trait that further builds on the realness.
Take Easy is a personal favourite, something about it makes for an infectious, enjoyable ear-worm, and the mellow vibe of the ambiance is a joy to have surround you – as you drive, as you work, as you attempt to wake-up and get things done. Subtle follows and the mood fits brilliantly, colourful guitar parts contrast and collaborate, a reverb-soaked leading voice reveals personal details of subtle addictions alongside of poetic imagery. Another highlight for its intrigue – a mysterious, provocative song, and those memorable guitar riffs seek to fill the gaps between thoughts in a clever way. They remind you to listen when there are words, and to escape into the audio when there is only music. As the song becomes more familiar, rightfully reappearing in your long-term playlist, everything about it lets you escape into the moment.
Taking eclecticism even further, Melting feels like a strange cross between Bob Dylan and Elvis Presley at first, there’s swagger again, but those poetic ideas, and the emotion and energy in the vocal performance, it all works in favour of creating something rhythmically compelling before you. There’s a quickness to the lyrics, so their presence is greater – there’s more being said, more to follow. It’s worth more than a single listen on first visit. Musically the track is fresh and stands separately from the rest – in unison with the vocal delivery. A lot goes on within the walls of this EP, it feels excitingly new yet nostalgically familiar all at once.
Made To Last marks the finish line and emerges as a hopeful folk ambiance with an acoustic guitar at the forefront of the experience. The song that follows has unexpected intensity, it also has depth though – something you come to expect from Boy Leadfoot. There’s a lightness to the music but it’s no less intriguing and thought provoking. This is a stunning song, by all accounts, that low-fi quality gives it a distant feeling but this just pulls you in closer to witness it in as intimate a setting as possible. Later on, the song feels quite experimental in structure – the changing levels of energy, the rising and falling emotions. In a live setting this would be a joy to witness, as would the Turn-Buckle EP in full, no doubt. A definite release to re-visit over the summer months.