17 September 2021 (released)
14 January 2022
Howl is the second full-length from Bend Oregon's Leadbetter Band. The trio deal in a heavy brand of blues-rock in league with stalwarts like Gov't Mule and Joe Bonamassa. Emerging from the ashes of Boulder Colorado's Jive Coolis, the Leadbetter Band is focussed around frontman Eric Leadbetter and his wailing guitar and howling vocals. With the chops to get a blues crowd whipped up into a frenzy, the band has opened for legends like John Mayall and ZZ Top. Howl ranges from your standard mid-tempo festival pleasers to loud and loose jams to soulful reflective slow-burns.
A galloping rhythm section and greasy double stop guitar lend a hard edge to the opener 'Waterdogs'. Leadbetter's voice soars in from that husky, Warren Haynes range up into 80s metal range. 'Doesn't Change a Thing' gets slinky with a shifting pentatonic riff. Something in the vein of Gary Clark Jr. with
Leadbetter laying out a well-executed, psych-tinged melodic solo.
The songs get looser and more experimental as the album settles in. The mid-album string of 'Time Waits', Feedin' the Landlord' and 'On the Road' is the record's high point. Tasteful delayed guitar and gentle atmospherics score 'Time Waits' as Leadbetter croons on the great old muse of all blues music: time. A gospel-like mood comes across as he laments over the quickening pace of life. 'Feedin' the Landlord' lets Leadbetter loose. Jimmy Page style spongy riffing that toys with rhythmic standards making for a swampy, stomping blues throw down. The second half of the track is one sprawling solo that brings the live feeling with the ebb and flow of a tight band showing off for a crowd at the end of the show. 'On the Road' tails quickly offering up a get-up-and-go highway shuffle. Harmonica carries us all down the line as Leadbetter's voice teeter's between Haynes and Hagar.
Howl has its ups and downs. Certain tracks that would keep a barroom up and dancing fall a little flat on record and at times it feels like Leadbetter is holding back to make the songs seem more digestible. This is a band that should be experienced live. But there are some killer tracks on this record and as long as you allow yourself a listen or two of the whole record, you'll find that the group is capable of some great output.