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CD REVIEW: Leon-Vest - So Blue
By JJ Biener - 08/23/2006 - 01:33 PM EDT

Artist: Leon-Vest
Album: So Blue
CD Review: Leon-Vest
So Blue

I get a lot of CDs doing this gig. The vast majority of them are remarkably well done. I could write 30 reviews a month and still not cover everyone deserving a review. I end up writing reviews of the ones that really get under my skin, the ones that get into my head and refuse to leave. So Blue by Sandy Leon and James Vest is an example of one such CD.

There isn’t one thing that I can point to on this CD and say, “Yes. That is the thing that makes this memorable.” To the contrary it is the combination of many things that fit together so well that makes this work. It is the intelligent lyrics. It’s the subtle, engaging melodies. It is the sparse arrangements which contain not one note too many nor one too few. It is Sandy Leon’s voice. It is the songwriting which has a social conscience without being preachy or obvious.

The opening track is Color Me Blue, a jazzy-pop tune that gives the listener a view into the break up of a relationship. I realize this is not new ground for a songwriter to till, but the approach they take is feels fresh and new. This is a story of two specific people with unique issues and you learn their character and their story in a mere four and a half minutes. This is something only good songwriting can accomplish. I was drawn into their world the first time I heard it, and I have been drawn in every time I have played it since.

Fashion is also a song about relationships and complicated people. The person this song is written to is suffering the effects of being raised by an insane mother. It colors his life and wreaks havoc on his relationship with the singer. While a song like this could easily be mishandled, Leon and Vest handle it artfully. When describing the insanity of the mother, Sandy sings, “She comes and goes like fashion. Like a scene from a dream.” What could have been harsh is instead simple and eloquent.

If Wishes Were Horses combines their skilled songwriting with their social awareness. The premise is that if wishes came true, then the problems of the world wouldn’t exist. If they had stopped there, the song would be good if somewhat mundane. Instead they take it one more step and bring the tragedies of the world back to the personal, the individual. Sandy is singing to a person who has been profoundly affected by the troubles and who has given up on life. The song serves to call that person back from the precipice. There are numerous references to events in the news that are now somewhat dated. That said, I think they act as a time capsule of where our culture has been for the last 20 years.

There isn’t a bad song on this CD. The title song, So Blue, could easily have been recorded by Patsy Cline in her heyday. These songs are filled with emotion and intelligence. I encourage you to go to their website at listen to their music clips. Then go ahead and buy a few dozen copies of the CD.

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