Personnel: Dylan LeBlanc (vocals, acoustic guitar, electric guitar); Caleb Elliott (vocals, cello); Kimi Samson (violin, viola); Ben Tanner (keyboards); Jeremy Gibson (drums, percussion).
Audio Mixer: Ben Tanner.
Recording information: Single Lock Studios, Florence, Alabama.
The third studio long-player from the Muscle Shoals-born crooner, the aptly named Cautionary Tale finds Dylan LeBlanc exorcizing some personal demons while injecting some much needed pomp and circumstance into his signature blend of breezy, '70s West Coast singer/songwriter pop and Bible Belt-bred gothic Americana. A conscious attempt to avoid relying on the self-described "sad bastard songs" that were so prevalent on his prior two releases, Cautionary Tale doesn't exactly shake the rafters, but the addition of a rhythm section, along with copious amounts of cello, violin, and viola, certainly helps to expand the young troubadour's sound. His high and lonesome croon, a velvety mix of After the Gold Rush-era Neil Young, James Bay, and Fleet Foxes' Robin Pecknold, sits much higher in the mix this time around, and imbues highlights like the lush and lovely Eagles-esque "Roll the Dice," the snappy and soulful "Easy Way Out," and the road trip-ready title cut with an air of confidence that had been missing up to now. Even the quieter moments, of which there are still quite a few, especially on the LP's more laconic back half, are bolstered by tight production and the sterling performances of both LeBlanc and his band. Lyrically LeBlanc is still mired in the faux-verisimilitude and myopic ruminating that are the bane of all twentysomethings, but with Cautionary Tale, his finest outing to date, he's stepped far enough out of his shell that the world around him is starting to come into focus. ~ James Christopher Monger