Last year, Fort Worth native Devin Leigh released Chants and Incantations, a bluesy, guitar-drenched collection of original songs that sounded gnarly as background music for a road trip. My main complaint was a lack of inspiration in his lyrics. Leigh returns with Searching for the Truth, a new batch of originals that tops last year’s solid effort in every way. Lyrics, melodies, chord structures, performance, and production all see an uptick.
The album begins in typical fashion for Leigh. On leadoff track “Judgment Day,” he plays a growling blues lick that grabs the listener by the ears immediately before segueing into impassioned blues-country. The stomping drumming supports an urban tale filled with vague images of loaded guns, Bibles, civil unrest, and real or imagined monsters.
Leigh, like many Fort Worth musicians, refuses to stick to any one genre. He is a blues guitarist, first and foremost, but his ambition and eclecticism carry him down numerous roads and alleyways on the musical map. Most of the excursions deliver, although Leigh stumbles on the aimless second song, “Dark Days,” which doesn’t sound like blues, country, rock, jazz, swing, or anything else other than slightly tedious. That hiccup is forgotten as the guitar whiz follows with two raucous barnburners before slapping the listener across the face with the memorable “Words of Silence.” The slow, painful break-up song is stripped down to mostly just guitar and vocals and sounds like Ryan Adams meets The White Stripes. “And there is silence, so many words full of silence,” he sings. Co-written with Madi Das, the song showcases Leigh’s use of poetic and stylistic nuance rather than straight-ahead blues power.
Leigh still struggles at times with lyrics. On the title song, for instance, he sings the phrase “still searching for the truth” at least two dozen times. Seeking truth is a vague concept that sparks no succinct images in my mind. Compare that to the lyrics in “Words of Silence,” where the protagonist’s tears leave salt stains on his face as he listens to his ex-fiancé mumble on the phone and wonders if her dad still hates him. Leigh is a continually improving artist who has been entertaining Texas audiences as a one-man band for a few years after serving as a flamboyant sideman for Bleu Edmondson and a founding member of Killbilly. This new batch of tunes supplements his diverse set list that is already making him one of the region’s most toe-tappable solo performers.