Album Review: James Leg, Solitary Pleasure (Alive Records)

(Article first published as Album Review: James Leg, Solitary Pleasure (Alive Records) on Blogcritics.)

James Leg" is the alter-ego of John Wesley Myers, keyboard man and vocalist for the southern blues duo Black Diamond Heavies. While the title of his debut solo album might hint at a work of musical masturbation, Solitary Pleasure is anything but: it’s a record that recreates the in-your-face feel of being in a hot, sweaty, crowded club while Leg and his drummer Andrew Jody pound out some hot, rockin’ blues and soul stylings.

The album kicks off with the breakneck rocker “Have To Get It On,” a statement of purpose with Leg placing himself in the lineage of other keyboard crazies like Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis as he howls and growls in a sandpaper voice that evokes the raspier moments of Howlin’ Wolf and Tom Waits.

“Do How You Wanna” is a gnarly blues, with some appropriate lead guitar from guest Dillon Watson, while “Nobody’s Fault” is a soulful ballad – of course, this being James Leg, it’s a ballad that mentions “goddamn crackheads” and closes with the humorously self-referential line, “I knew this’d get fucked up / when she showed up at soundcheck.”

Other highlights include the surging “Fire and Brimstone,” an appropriately smoking Link Wray cover powered by Jody’s chugging drums, and “Drowning In Fire,” an organ and piano-driven deep blues with Leg proclaiming, “This howling dog inside of me / I just can’t make it still.”

Leg even breaks character on the soul ballad “Whatever It Takes,” dropping the guttural growl (!) in favor of some tuneful crooning. “Drinking Too Much” is another cover, but the song’s desperate sentiments fit the James Leg worldview to a tee, and Leg’s honky tonk piano stylings here are a treat.

Solitary Pleasure, then, is a great soundtrack to the party, whether it’s the one going down in your living room, or the one going on inside your head.

--Johnny "Gutter" Walker