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November 30, 2012

The Broken Numbers Band, a multi-instrumental 5 piece based out of Los

Angeles, California, play feel good, american rock music, combining

crafted and tasteful songwriting with sweet vocal harmonies, an honest

and sincere work ethic, and a classic musical sensibility that is

clearly drawn from the soil and from the soul."

Leslie Stevens

Leslie Stevens may just be the sweetheart of the rodeo. Not your

traditional rodeo, mind you: this one's a traveling road show, a

displaced menagerie of vintage country rock, Laurel Canyon folk and

haunted gypsy jazz.

Roomful of Smoke, the new LP from Leslie

Stevens and The Badgers, shuffles and swaggers to the march of a

different drum. It's a glittering showcase for Leslie's pitch-perfect,

honeyed croon, a lighter-than-air twang that channels Emmylou, Dolly

and Neko Case in the same understated breath.

Produced by

legendary studio maven David Bianco (Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, Teenage

Fanclub), Roomful of Smoke merges Leslie's sultry vocals and poignant

lyrics with the unhurried polish of the Badgers, a crack team of

musicians with studio chops and record collections to match, a

versatile set of musicians equally at home with Western Swing, Texas

two-step and dialed-down LA folk rock.

Born in Chicago and raised

in St. Louis, Missouri, Leslie began singing in her church choir,

eventually migrating to Los Angeles for college, with further stays in

Italy and New Mexico. Writing songs the entire time-she was in LA punk

band Zeitgeist Auto Parts for a spell-Leslie later found steady work at

soundtrack composer Hans Zimmer's studio in Santa Monica and provided

original compositions for cult filmmaker Owen Land. Armed with a fresh

batch of songs, Leslie then set out to recruit musicians who could help

her realize her eclectic vision.

Roomful of Smoke begins with a

lovelorn paean to the group's hometown, "Los Angeles," charting the

ambitions and frustrations of life in that city, with Leslie backed by

fingerpicked guitar, bowed bass fiddle and Hammond organ. On the title

track, "Roomful of Smoke," they unleash the twang, venturing into

driving roots rock with overdriven guitars and the occasional Fleetwood

Mac melodic flourish. The band plays a different hand on the hypnotic

"Old Timers," a lush, elegant gem that explores friendship and the

possibility of loss. It's a fan favorite for good reason, with rich

storytelling, clever imagery and a memorable chorus.

"My Tears

are Wasted on You" is pure vintage Nashville gold, with Leslie

delivering a vocal lead to rival other Canyon Cowgirls of late. The

arrangement ebbs and flows with effortless grace, from the waltzing

fiddle lines to the liquid mercury of the spot-on pedal steel.

Ben Reddell Band

You may recall Ben Reddell from his place on the bass behind L.A.'s

Leslie Stevens&The Badgers cq -- he's the tall, mustachioed

longhair who seems like he'd have been equally at home playing with

Willie Nelson as with Roky Erickson. But Reddell has a guitar and a band

of his own, too, and a voice that comes out as weatherbeaten and

world-weary as any classic Texan troubadour. (Hey, Guy Clark? Townes Van

Zandt? Is there room for one more to share that bottle of the strong

stuff?) If you saw the film Heartworn Highways, and if you

laughed and then tried not to cry at all the appropriately hilarious and

heartbreaking moments, you're primed for Ben Reddell's band. They'll

ready the beer if you've got the tears.

--Chris Ziegler

Joshua Tree Gateway Communities