Newcastle’s Ben Leece has building a name for himself as a solo artist over the last 12 months with songwriting awards and support slots for artists such as Tim Rogers and Courtney Marie Andrews. On his highly accomplished debut album he’s brought together some of this country’s finest in producer and musician Shane Nicholson, singer Katie Brianna and pedal steel player Jason Walker.
Leece’s voice leads the charge, out front of the songs and burnishing them with anguished howls, and sweet alt-county melodies. The former Delta Lions member knows how to control tension and release in his songwriting and his singing, establishing mood and tone in the verses before rich and hook laden choruses take the spotlight.
Leece gets lumped in with the Americana crowd and he’s definitely part of that, given the swaying honky tonk of ‘Sunny Side’, the rollicking country rock of ‘Highway Not The Dream’ and a strong nod to the work of Ryan Adams, overtly so on the single ‘Villains’. Added to that mix is the pop-leaning frantic strum of Lemonheads on ‘A Hole’ and the ragged heartland sound of The Replacements (‘Rebel Alone’) which hangs over much of the record.
Leece isn’t afraid to wear his heart and soul on his sleeve, the way he can hang that vocal out in the open at the start of ‘Smoke Signals’ while the music slowly edges its way into view. It’s the sign of an artist who understands the power of dynamics in songwriting and the confidence to let his words ring loud and clear.
‘This Is What You Get’ shows that Leece isn’t content to settle down within a genre. The song rides an atmospheric rhythm and vibe in the vein of Radiohead before exploding into alt-rock pyrotechnics. Across the album the diversity of subject matter is equally varied – indigenous affairs, depression, the pursuit of happiness and the impression of an old soul negotiating the modern world. It all amounts to an impressive debut built on economical and emotive songwriting and delivered via one hell of a voice.