'Welcome To Botox Nation
[And Other Tales Of Modern Madness]'
Saguaro Records, 2014)
"There is always compassion in my lyrics", says Dutch singer-songwriter Leon Brock. "Or at least a wink. But they're never sarcastic." Leon lives in the historic town Delft (William of Orange, founder of the monarchy, was shot here in 1584), halfway Rotterdam and The Hague. He is a teacher sociology in daily life, so he is used to observing people and their behaviour. It's no big surprise that he finds there the inspiration for his songwriting too!
When he thought it was time to release a new album, he selected ten self-penned songs or 'reflections on this modern society' as he calls them. The music is a mix of country, blues and folk with hints of flamenco and African rhythms. Just like on his first album, Guus Westdorp plays the keys, the other musicians are: Derk Groen (guitar), André Boekestijn (bas and flamenco guitar) and Arie Verhaar (drums). Henk de Kat is a guest musician, who plays the accordion on bonus track "My Egomobile". It took quite a bit of time to get everything ready, the studio owner ran into some bad luck and the mix had to be perfect, even if that meant they had to listen to their songs over and over again.
Bas Beijersbergen, a visual artist based in Delft, designed the FUN packaging: a tin cigar case! The colorful CD-booklet features collages for every song, with quite a few skeletons doing their thing like normal people! Both Leon and Bas are big fans of comics and especially 'Kuifje' (Tintin) is their hero. After all the hard work, it felt fantastic to finally have the finished CDs at home, admits Leon.
Leon always liked the American country rock and altcountry, but also the singer-songwriter tradition. He found inspiration by listening to the music of Steve Earle, Joe Ely, Townes Van Zandt and Hank Williams. He was the founder of the Dutch altcountry band The Red Sea Sharks, but after eighteen years he decided to pull the plug and return to basics. In 2009 Leon released his first solo-album 'Ordinary People'. He went into the studio with his 'co-pilot' Guus Westdorp and bassist Martin Vermeer and they recorded all eleven songs on one Sunday afternoon! The theme of that album was travelling through the U.S.A.
Dan McCann, former bass player of Evan Johns & His H-Bombs, had some well-deserved praise about the CD: "I saw the preparation and real world travelling that Leon did to craft these songs for recording 'Ordinary People'. He travelled America, on his own, in a car camping in the desert and visiting with the people of the American SouthWest. The songs are 'true' or they are actually part of Leon's American experience. I notice that Americans find it interesting to hear these snapshots of our own country coming from the guitar and voice of, in this case, a Dutch songwriter focused on American realities of life."
'Ordinary People' is still available!
Let's take this disc from the tin cigar case and let's give it a spin!
1. "The Other Side Of The Road": Nice start with a catchy melody, that has some influences from Central-European gypsy and folk music. "I'm looking for an answer / On the other side of the road".
2. "Welcome To Botox Nation": About the obsession with looks and staying young and... get full lips like Angelina! Great interplay between electric guitar and keys.
3. "Borrego Springs": That's a small town close to San Diego. I guess this song was already written during or shortly after Leon's travels in the U.S.A. It captures that Californian close-to-the-border desert feeling perfectly. Love the shakers!
4. "Gender Outlaw": More good guitar work, a harmonica and background vocals for a song with another sensitive subject: "The right to be is what you claim".
5. "Highway Prostitute": Ballad about an older lady of the night, picking up her clients along the highways as she still has kids to raise. So, she's waiting for another 'fifteen minute friend'. Brilliant song with unfortunately not a happy end.
6. "Oaxaca Blues": That's the city where altcountry hero Dan Stuart (Green On Red) lives! A blues rock song indeed, with bad-ass electric guitar and harmonica. "I don't wanna go away / I think I'm gonna stay", according to the last line!
7. "Time": Song with a great cadence and probably the most inspired guitar solo of the album. "I get my comfort from the things I believe..."
8. "Why Do Men": Questions. Why men commit so much violence... Leon sums up various gritty examples - seemingly in sharp contrast with the sounds of the pretty flamenco guitar, but that works perfectly.
9. "A Two Pint State Of Mind": A fast playful tune, with a little wink at the 'La Bamba' folklore sounds, about corporate greed.
10. "My Egomobile": Labeled as a bonus track and recorded at home. The subject is irresponsibility on the road. Piano and accordion give this country song a conjunto feeling.
Leon has his own sound and does his own thing. Leon's somewhat raggedy voice tells us that he lives his life to the fullest and has a lot of stories to share... The subjects he picked for his songs are definitely interesting and have much more depth, than the fluffy stuff that we usually hear on the radio! What I already noticed on his previous album: he asks native speakers to check his lyrics and that's a very smart thing to do. Leon's English is very easy to understand, but I don't know if his casual pronunciation will bother anybody? After all, he's Dutch! Furthermore, these are all experienced players - the music sounds great. I wish, that in this digital era more artists would pay attention to the packaging of their goods, like Leon and his friends did... We want less MP3's and more tin cigar cases!
Written by Johanna J. Bodde - September 30th, 2014.