New albums from Leslie, Paul Allen & The Bushels 

In the Jukebox

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Leslie
The Rebel Souls EP
(independent)

“End of the Road”
Audio File

Leslie's four-song EP may be something of a rambunctious appetizer to their forthcoming full-length offering — a sampler from the sessions they conducted in Memphis with acclaimed producer Paul Ebersold last fall and winter — but it packs a mighty mean punch. On the anthemic opening track "No More Tears," Sadler Vaden's overlapping acoustic and electric guitar chords sound like the Who (of the 1970s and the 2000s). Drummer Jonathan Carmen's rock fills and cymbal accents seem a little more carefully executed than previous recordings (his Larry Mullen, Jr. beat on the more dissonant "Freak Flag" is a nice touch). He and bassist Jason Fox hook into the rhythmic grooves across the tunes with a bit more depth and precision, too. With a pummeling swing beat and a dynamic arrangement, "Devil Ain't Ready" might be the most head-banging, Southern-tinged, '70s-styled track here. For all the bombast, Rebel Souls concludes with a relatively delicate song. The acoustic guitar intro and bridge on "End of the Road" is as moving as any of the muscular solos or riffs on the first three tunes, and Vaden's soulful holler comes off convincingly. The rock clichés abound, however, as there are many familiar and derivative "rock band" moments. The three guys in Leslie demonstrates a firm determination to shape and rework what they borrow into something increasingly personal and unique to themselves. If the next slab is as rockin' as this one, bring it on and make it quick. (www.myspace.com/leslierock) —T. Ballard Lesemann

Leslie plays at Droopy's in Myrtle Beach on Wed. April 15 and Wed. May 20.

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Paul Allen
Waiting for the Last Bus
(independent)

“Waiting For The Last Bus”
Audio File

It's not a surprise to learn that Paul Allen is an English professor and a published poet, because the real strength of his latest album is in the lyrics. There's gold in practically every stanza of all 11 original songs. The man is such a master at painting a picture with words, it's safe to assume he's been around the block a time or two. In a style somewhere between Hank Williams and Leon Redbone, Allen waxes light-heartedly (for the most part) on unrequited love, fraternal concern, self deprecation, broken dreams, and social observation. Allen comes across as the granddad you always wanted. He's even more profound when the tongue is less firmly in cheek, as with the poignant "The Road Home" and the somber closer, "Two Days in Dublin." He is at his best when he's in that rare space between a smile and a tear. Waiting for the Last Bus is classic Americana: lots of clean acoustic guitar, a bit of shuffle drum work with the brushes, some high lonesome harmonica, well-written songs with unpretentious lyrics steeped in colloquialism and local color, solid playing, tight, minimalistic production, and plenty of heart. Not unlike a Bob Dylan album, it more than makes up for any lacking technical flare with honesty and depth. If there are any uneven moments, they are only on the production end of the two live numbers. Because of their positive energy, you'll let that slide. Thumps up. (www.sonicbids.com/paulallen) —Doug Walters

Paul Allen occasionally performs at the East Bay Meeting House's local showcase on Tuesdays.

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The Bushels
The Bushels
(independent)

Acoustic quartet the Bushels — a house act at Off the Hook on Sullivan's — stretch out from the traditional bluegrass some may expect across the five tunes on their debut, self-titled EP. Recorded at Blacktree Studio on John's Island, things sound like a cool, band-around -the-mic hoe-down — undistracted, under-polished, pure, and genuine. Propelled by Guilds Hollowell's dynamic banjo work, opening track "Sweet T" rambles at a rapid tempo typical of upbeat Appalachian-style bluegrass, but things mellow out considerably on the morose ballad "Lady Luck" and the folksy strummer "Cherokee Girl." The raspy lead vocals of mandolinist Mal Jones and the harmonies of guitarist Jim Algar complement the rustic vibes. The intricately-arranged "Madeline" is a highlight here, too. Lyrically, the four-chord anthem and closing number "Music" sums up the spirit of the Bushels — ambling down a musical road "so long it's become [their] life." Hopefully, their follow-up won't feature the web address in the cover art. (www.myspace.com/thebushels)—T. Ballard Lesemann

The Bushels perform every Thursday evening at Off the Hook on Sullivan's Island.


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