Dylan LeBlanc is a great musician and somewhat of a wunderkind. Having mastered the art of fingerpicking in childhood and hitting the road shortly thereafter, it’s safe to say that he has the music in his blood and might be a rightful heir to the long litany of road-weary, battle-tested folk troubadours. While he may never become a household name, his star is already shining considerably brighter than a lot of veteran singers who have been out honing their craft for a lot longer than the 22 years Mr. LeBlanc has been breathing air on this planet. However, having talent and feeling the muse is no guarantee that the songs will actually hold up, and that is the trouble Mr. LeBlanc encounters here on his latest album, Cast The Same Old Shadow.
The problem mainly lies in the arrangements and tempo. The album’s twelve tracks are all steeped in a maudlin aura, filled with slow, almost dirge-like melodies and anchored by LeBlanc’s lilting wail. It’s a pretty voice and one that has probably brought a tear to the eye of many affected listeners, but it’s a voice that grows tiresome over the course of a song cycle. The soundscapes also borrow too liberally from its’ influences. “Diamonds and Pearls” and “Comfort Me” are nice, sad country yarns, but are indistinguishable from Ryan Adams’ recent work on Ashes & Fire. “Lonseome Waltz” aims for the emotional resonance of Ray LaMontagne or Sam Beam, but falls interminably short. The title track attempts to infuse some dissonance into the proceedings, but is so hushed and quiet, that the purpose is quickly defeated. The penultimate track, “Our Great Sadness” proves to be an apt phrase, as LeBlanc has so bummed us out that sleep and/or despair has sunk its’ cold, hard claws deep into the recesses of our psyche and LeBlanc’s voice has been muted. He’s either one really sad dude or a great impersonator of one.
It’s hard to be critical of a young singer-songwriter full of promise and fanfare. However, the world already has plenty of artists who can deftly balance the sad sack act with other, more tuneful spins on the folk tradition. If LeBlanc wants to have staying power, he’d be wise to dial down the weepiness and give himself a more aggressive kick in the up-tempo direction.