Personnel: Mathieu Gazeau (drums); Matt Ayers (percussion).
Audio Mixer: Jason Soda.
Recording information: Masonic Sounds, the Lodge, Dayton, KY.
Punk blues eccentric James Leg returns with the aptly titled Blood on the Keys, his third solo effort since shelving his flagship project the Black Diamond Heavies. Fans of the gutter-voiced keyboardist's signature sound will no doubt find some of what initially put him on the map, but with Blood on the Keys, he continues the stylistic expansion he began a year earlier on 2015's Below the Belt. While it's comforting to know that Leg can shred through massive blown-out rockers like "Human Lawn Dart" and "Hugging the Line," he also gets slow and soulful on the warmly captured "I'll Take It" and the stadium ballad title track. Like his last album, this one was recorded in a converted Masonic Lodge in Dayton, Kentucky and mixed in L.A. by Jason Soda. The retro milieu in which Leg works is part of his swampy mystique, and it works to his advantage as his growling vocals and dazzling organ and electric piano work coalesce in thick slabs of analog glory. Again, this is part of what drew fans to him in the first place, but the new tones he introduces here also provide the two biggest album highlights. From the start, "St. Michel Shuffle" feels different, setting Leg's fierce growls against an odd, throbbing organ backdrop, brightly tinkling piano, and a robust gypsy-classical string arrangement. It's dynamic, unique, and easily the most striking track on the album. Similarly, the closer "Should Have Been Home with You" reprises the shuffling gypsy-blues sound with some fiery interplay between the trilling fiddle and Leg's distorted Fender Rhodes, making for a different kind of barnburner than he's previously delivered. More exploratory than some of his previous work, Blood on the Keys is another quality outing from Leg. ~ Timothy Monger
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