New York’s Uncle Leon is no liar. If he claims that his bassist slept with your mother, there’s a very high chance that it happened. Thus it follows that if he claims to have a new album out, you should probably read the full e-mail and not just the opening sentences. ‘Wild Ways’ sees Uncle Leon and the Alibis move from mere champion jockey status to that of cowpunk demigods.
All the expected themes – especially the love of a good woman and alcohol – are present, but there’s also an air of maturity to the music that will surprise a lot of listeners. “All My Crazy Friends Got Old and Lame” is the voice of the sadly misplaced Hank Williams grown into middle age. Somewhere, right now, a lonesome gunslinger is crying into a beer that may or may not be his.
In blatant contrast, “Fuck the World” channels The Supersuckers at their drunken, irascible best. You may find yourself bobbing your head in appreciation, but, for proper effect, I recommend a steel bin and your forehead. Alcohol may also heighten the impact.
The old country ghosts are present again on “The Cheatin’ Kind.” Leon sings with a certain sadness that puts the country-for-cash jobbers to great shame. You might question the authenticity of a Midwest boy, but it would be wise to listen to his song before you start shooting. This stuff is heartfelt.
The titular track visits a grey area between The Rolling Stones and Gram Parsons that has seldom been done justice. It is the voice of wisdom, it is the voice of regret and it is the voice of modern roots rock. Young and old gang together (in spirit) in the name of good music. Not bad, eh?
The album ends on “Whiskey and Weed and Big-Titted Women” – a real sing-a-long! At the risk of sounding patronising and self-aggrandising, this song reinforces every positive thing that I’ve said about this album. Plus, the title lends the listener a mental image of paradise.
Uncle Leon is the bar room hero that your granddaddy worshipped way back born again. ‘Wild Ways’ is the album that your granddaddy wanted you to receive before your mother gave you Pat Boone. Do the right thing and listen to Uncle Leon and the Alibis.