Singer and songwriter Dave Lebental has taken a 27-year hiatus to focus on his duties as a family man. So, this much-belated return is an ode to his dedication to the craft, but how good of an ode it is? We’re here to report on just that.
Los Angeles-based American veteran Dave Lebental has his guitars and impressive pipes as weapons of choice as he embarks on his latest, expansive musical undertaking. ‘The Long Player’ sees Lebental returning to penning down songs that fuse Americana with blues, bluegrass, and country pop, bringing us a collection of 11 brand new songs that showcase the wide-ranging abilities of Lebental as a guitarist and a vocalist.
With a grandiose dreadnought acoustic ringing throughout nearly all of the album’s 11 tunes, it is easy to gather that Lebental’s musical heart lies with the guitar and its singer-songwriter leanings. That is not to say that any of his other instrumental endeavors are lacking in even a bit of polish. Nearly all of the electric playing on the album are supported by terrific tones, balanced in their modulation and overdrive, the conventional and the out-there, the tones on the electric guitars of The Long Player are -on their own- a testament to the man’s decades-defying experience.
The album kicks off with ‘I’m Not Too Old’, coming in strong with the hearty vocal yelps, innuendo-laden lyrics, and sizzling horn leads. Also a good introduction to the album’s punchy and roomy production, the song features a balanced mix that carries each instrumental layer to where they should be, with minimal compression, just-right EQing, and a general no-frills attitude. Balancing the ballroom vibes of the first cut with a more sinister approach to the harmonies and lyrics on the second one, ‘The Next Train Out of Town’ features the album’s first standout electric guitar performance with a twangy blues performance that’s heavy on the slide. The slow tempo, sparser arrangement, and drop-tuned riffs help deliver a song that’s catchy and memorable. The delicious interplay between the electric noodling, feathery-light strums, and intense Hammond organ leads on ‘Bring it Around’ showcases Lebental’s fantastic attention to detail, and the delicately twisting harmony on ‘Monique’, and how it effortlessly wraps itself around the soulful melodies are a testament to a seasoned musical ear.
‘Granite Meadows’ introduces breezy and otherworldly synths into its sensitive arrangement. With a slow tempo and a minimal composition, the song has vast space for the instruments to play around in, and with searing organ leads, modulated electric leads, and one of the album’s softest and most genial vocal performances, we see Lebental expertly fill this space with one meaningful layer on top of another. On one of the album’s few black ducks, ‘My Heart’s on Fire’ is Lebental doing Elvis. The song is far from a mere copycat of a much loved trope though -featuring some tight rhythm chops, the song also showcases terrific vocal control by Lebental in the lower registers that were seldom explored before this point on the album. ‘Painted Desert Sky’ is a warm ballad of major key blues, with an electric guitar solo that displays all the expert balance that we have previously discussed, and ‘No One Else Can Do It’ is a lyrically breezy ditty that features deceptively nuanced acoustic guitar riffs underneath the parlour country tropes laid on top, and to have a line as well-written as that one be a mere part in the rhythmic tapestry of a song is exactly what decades of experience qualifies you to. An arrangement that works with absolute efficiency.
Leaving the best for last, the modal blues on ‘What You Got’ call to mind the intricate compositions of Led Zeppelin’s early, blues-heavy material. But with a more sparse arrangement and a load of soaring horns, and a sizzling blues harp part, this song excels in creating an energetic vibe that is unmatched throughout the album. We also need to mention that ‘What You Got’ features the album’s best vocal delivery -bar none. With dizzying highs, sustained effectively and masterfully, we have a singer who’s letting it all out with soul and panache.
What ‘The Long Player’ lacks in emotional depth, is more than made up for by warm lyricisms, cheerful songwriting, upbeat arrangements, and a general sense of optimism that prevails throughout all of the album’s songs. A delightful listen that is full of nuance and attention to detail, and a welcome return of a veteran that -after a 27-year leave- makes it seem all too easy.