STREET SOUNDS: Sleezy goes down easy
The second album from Vernon bluesman Les Copeland is a pared down, focused recording that emphasizes acoustic country blues and boogie raunch.
It Ain’t Easy Being Sleezy is a trio effort. Copeland is joined by Bill Haner on bass and Charlie Fisher on drum.
The recording begins to take off on the second track, Caught Up in Your Love, an evocative acoustic backwoods blues chant that kicks in with a high holler, then moves on to some skipping slide work.
Tracks like these are where Copeland shines, displaying an affinity for past sounds that’s uncanny. The song mixes in quick picking and a sparse vocal, leaving the space between to provide the atmosphere.
The LCB’s sound shifts on to some grinding blues rock that has the crank/distortion button pushed on with the volume high. Big Mouth is a change in sound for Copeland and the song’s sinewy drive and nasty vocal recall Big Sugar’s cranked take on blues riffs. Copeland’s vocal and dirty guitar entwine in a tough union of bad attitude that’s a contemporary update of blues rock.
The cautionary tale Billie Joe and A Shack Out in the Woods are lyrically driven ideas that recall Bobbi Gentry and John Lee Hooker in their themes of rough living and simple pleasures. Copeland’s voice is a relaxed and expressive presence that suits these story songs and narratives with offhand humour and warmth.
On the other hand, Bald Headed Women is an uneasy commentary on risky love whose dark matter is offset by an easy going jazz shuffle.
From there it’s back to the driving blues vamps that are the surprise and standout songs on this album.
Gal I Love has an intense and committed bite that’s been muted in some of Copeland’s other work. The freedom of locking into a straight ahead groove brings out the foot-stomping rocker in Copeland and company and they respond in kind with a late-hour juke joint attack, wrapping up a short bluesy set.
— You can catch Copeland, Haner and Fisher live this weekend when they play as The Haywires country dance band at the Riverfront Pub in Grindrod tonight.
— Dean Gordon-Smith is a musician and freelance writer based in Vernon, B.C.