Thursday, December 29, 2016

Little Diamonds - New Orleans Bound

Little Diamonds - New Orleans Bound 

Young singer/songwriter Luke Leblanc, performing under the name Little Diamonds, began seriously pursuing music as his passion between his twelfth and thirteenth birthday. He successfully committed himself to learning a number of instruments and two formative events further solidified his future musical path. He attended a Bob Dylan concert in 2008 that awakened the artistic possibilities of a musical career and later won a Dylan impersonation context that garnered him much attention for his vocal talents. His songwriting developed at a brisk pace and his debut album 1st Rail earned praise from numerous quarters for its undeniable quality and the inspiration fueling its performances. Little Diamonds is an un-ironic practitioner of a tradition that has an increasingly niche audience with each passing year, but he approaches his traditional minded material with absolutely no suggestion that these are museum pieces, modern approximations of dusty relics from a bygone time. His second full length album New Orleans Bound finds him discovering much more of an idiosyncratic songwriting voice than ever before and taking more musical chances. There’s plenty of confidence on the album’s dozen songs that would even be impressive from a veteran artist. 

“I Don’t Know About You” begins New Orleans Bound in an understated way. Little Diamonds has an approach that underplays the heavy emotions his songwriting discusses in such a way it actually underscores how much this is affecting the speaker. The guitar work is never too intricate for its own good, but every song has melodic substance coming either from his six string or the fiddle often joining him. He indulges in band efforts at a couple of points on New Orleans Bound and the first outing, “12-12-12”, hits a nice folk rock stride without ever sounding contrived or out of place with the rest of the album. “Too Early Gone” is one of the album’s sadder cuts and Little Diamonds sings with a conviction that explores the song’s emotions without ever wallowing in them. 

“Lord, Come Down” has hushed intensity from the outset and Little Diamonds never lets up on it. His vocal strikes a more serious note than any of the preceding songs and lines up very well with his equally focused guitar playing. The guitar playing on “Duluth Grandma” gives the song every bit as much of a marquee feel as the lyrical content. The words are very good – Little Diamonds’ greatest talent as a lyricist might be in rendering characters through his songwriting with three-dimensional clarity. “Old Man Al” isn’t quite as involved musically, but the vocal and lyrical content are both up to the same level.  

The album’s title cut is the second song incorporating a larger band format. Little Diamonds sounds just as comfortable as he does in the earlier song and genuinely moved to even greater heights by this particular track’s mix of musical styles. The mesh of traditional country with New Orleans jazz proves to be an excellent match and gives him a platform from which Little Diamonds gives his most convincing vocal performance yet. It wraps this album up with a strong conclusion that embodies the assurance he shows throughout the preceding eleven cuts. New Orleans Bound is a vital and completely modern work that just happens to utilize a number of time tested forms.  

9 out of 10 stars 

Scott Wigley

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