Josh Lief – Love In Disguise
8 songs – 28 minutes
Love In Disguise, the new album from Richmond, VA singer-guitarist-songwriter, Josh Lief, is a short (just 28 minutes) but enjoyable slab of guitar-heavy blues-rock, with enough variety between the songs to keep the listener engaged.
Opening with the heavy blues-rock of the title track, Lief’s overdriven wah-wah guitar and the pounding rhythm section of Debbie Flood (drums and percussion) and Tom Schoppe (bass) initially suggest a closer affinity to the 80s hard southern rock of the likes of Blackfoot or Molly Hatchet than to traditional blues. This impression is quickly undermined however as “Love In Disguise” is immediately followed by the gentle minor key “James River Blues”, with some lovely guitar playing and fine vocals from Lief.
The Clapton-esque country ballad of “Your Drinking Ways” carries a familiar warning about the risks of over-indulging in alcohol, while “Christine” is a full-bore Chuck Berry-style workout, albeit one played with significantly more muscularity and power than Chuck might choose. “All I Need” also nods its head towards Clapton’s early 70s ballads, while the finger-picked acoustic folk of “Edith Keeler Must Die” is one of the more intriguing tracks on the album, with its memorable opening lines “Edith Keeler, she must die. Even though she is the apple of Kirk’s eye. Despite a brilliant future, as the Guardian didn’t lie, Edith Keeler, she must die.” Revealing perhaps a disappointing lacuna in this reviewer’s knowledge of modern popular culture, what might appear at first listen to be a traditional lyric along the lines of “Frankie And Johnnie” actually (so a Google search reveals) recounts the plot of a 1967 Star Trek television episode.
“Deep Water Blues” is a heavy 12-bar blues, which gives Lief the opportunity to stretch out on his guitar, while “Let Go” is another acoustic finger-picked ballad with some delicate additional electric guitar from Andrew Tongone.
Lief is a fine guitar player with a warm, husky singing voice and he also writes smart songs – all tracks on Love In Disguise are self-penned. Flood and Schoppe provide him with excellent support throughout, equally comfortable on the acoustic folk-rock of “Let Go” or the wailing blues-rock of “Love In Disguise”. The musicians also cleverly switch up the instrumentation between songs, so “Edith Keeler Must Die” features a single finger-picked guitar, while Ben “Wolfe” White adds keyboards to four songs and (together with Tongone) backing vocals to “Your Drinking Ways”.
Recorded at Montrose Recording in Richmond, VA, by Adrian Olsen (with mastering by Brian Lucey at Magic Garden Mastering in LA), Love In Disguise has an impressively warm sound that suits the music well.
Love In Disguise is well worth investigating by anyone whose tastes lean towards the guitar-led blues-rock of Eric Clapton or Joe Bonamassa.