Pleasant alt-country band Leslie and the Badgers tend to play it safe on their latest release, Roomful of Smoke, which is typically more of a compliment than insult. Lead singer and principal songwriter Leslie Stevens is a capable singer with enough personality and slight twang to lift straightforward cuts, like the title track, above average sunny California country-rock that has been turned out for ages, while the feisty “Don Juan” proves Leslie and the Badgers can cut loose, and “Americans In Rome” is well constructed with an effective climax. “What Fall Promised” proves that Leslie and the Badgers can properly introduce themselves as more than Jenny Lewis rip-offs. Unfortunately, they don’t sustain that momentum for the album’s entirety, and while the record never succumbs to egregious genre tropes, there’s nothing peculiar or novel about the band or their music. Ultimately, Roomful of Smoke is tasteful and perky, but interchangeable with a laundry list of other indie stars who have since embraced country music.
// Notes from the Road
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