If we're being honest with ourselves, St. Louisans know that our town's contribution to the national rock & roll scene in the last twenty years pretty much begins and ends at Uncle Tupelo and its offshoots. We've annexed the Belleville, Illinois, band and propped them up as demigods so often that we fancy St. Louis as the cradle of alt-country. But it's been some time since a local band has made good on this legacy. Which isn't to say that the quartet Leadville sounds all that much like Uncle Tupelo, but both acts share many of the hallmarks of the alt-country genre — driving rhythms, folk flourishes, steel-eyed songwriting and overdriven twang. On the band's first album, Time Kills, singer and guitarist Tom Buescher gives his narrators enough detachment to keenly observe their situations, but he grounds their musings with humility, bemusement and good humor. Even when his vocals strain against their upper limits and come off as a little reedy and flat, Buescher's conviction more than makes up the difference.
Opening track "Wheels" begins with a sweetly ragged fiddle line that explodes into a hand-clapping, foot-stomping sing-along. Elsewhere on Time Kills, it's not hard to hear the influence of the Replacements, whose "sadly beautiful" dynamic pops up on songs such as "The Damp" and "Pretty Little Songs." Leadville tempers its serious side with quick, fun toss offs as well: A country shuffle guides the carefree "More's Gotta Be Better," and the sing-songy kiss-off "Rocks" gets in and out in under two minutes. By drawing from '60s pop, country and garage rock, the album never settles on one sound but tries on different styles of heartland rock & roll.
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