Review: The Black Leaves – The Spirit Of Life

-Kevin’s Take-

Oh You crazy Musicians from far off lands…Why is it you must make such incredible music but live where I will never get to see you live? Curses! I’ll just have to live vicariously through Vincent, our UK based writer.

The Black Leaves are a difficult band to describe, but easy to love. Jazzy, Rock, and throaty vocals combine to create the tour-de-force that is the Leaves. Hell, the title track of the album, The Spirit of Life, has didgeridoos in the first 12 seconds of the track… seriously… freakin’ Didgeridoos. Normally, with exception to the likes of Xavier Rudd, I consider them Didgeri-don’t, but I can’t fault the boys for dropping it in there.

To be honest this is a band with an identity crisis. The first four tracks are split between vocal heavy groove- rock, a gorgeous instrumental that is reminiscent of some classic mellow Rolling Stones stuff, a soft rock ballad “Walk Alone” that could – and should be – on the next Zach Braff movie about break-ups and loving something you can never have. Violins, and saxophone that brings to mind the legendary Clarence Clemons help make this piece an absolute highlight.

A word on vocals… I LOVE distinct voices. There are a billion good singers and millions of great singers… but there is only one Mads Kristensen.

It’s as if Tom Waits had a love child with Siouxsie Sioux, and that kid grew up to front a band with members from the Black Crowes, Buddy Guy, and Charlie Parker.

It seems evident that this band is one that favors experimentation, as evidenced in the transition from more “traditional” rock songs like “A Thousand Suns” to the charmingly folky “Ride Alone” and the haunting and airy track “The Light Of Love” that builds to a massive crescendo of soaring guitar and thundering drums.

The thing I was most pleased about is that this is the band’s third official album, and I can’t imagine what got left off the album. They are not hurting for creativity, nor have they settled into a “song-writer’s groove” that keeps them from stepping outside of the comfort zone. In fact, I don’t think they have a comfort zone when it comes to style. Music is the comfort zone. The musicianship is, to me, top notch, and makes me VERY curious if members have other projects they work on. If so, I would be interested in seeing what styles those projects take on, because I can’t seem to define them, or pick up obvious influences.

For the final track, “The End Of It All,” the Black Leaves have taken the spirit of Bob Seger song-writing and laid it across Jimmy Buffet-meets-George Strait hooks and deliver a fantastic book-end to this album. Well produced throughout, this album is a great example of the work as the whole, rather than stealing singles to hear a band.

The Black Leaves are, in short, a music lover’s band. Jazz, rock, soul, blues, country – you name it, they play it. If you’re looking for something to let your head wrap around, The Spirit of Life is a great record to scramble your expectations by.

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