Leyla Fences. Itty Bitty Twang Twang

Honky Tonk Heaven says the press release and for once we believe it as it was Blabber’n’Smoke who said it. We loved Leyla’s first album, Liars, Cheats and Fools back in 2010 with its gritty mix of tough talking attitude and the excellent honky tonk delivery likening it to an aural equivalent of Thelma and Louise (without the fatalistic ending however). Two years later Fences springs back into action with Itty Bitty Twang Twang (presumably punning on that movie about the flying car, at least it’s restricted to the album’s name with no song in sight). For anyone who has heard its predecessor there’s nothing here that will surprise but there’s plenty to delight as she tears through a solid collection of songs that define and refine Texan honky tonk music from a woman’s perspective.
Vocally in command at all times with her slightly nasal twang Fences is admirably served by her backing band with some great playing. The guitars bite and the piano rolls while the pedal steel sweeps and soars. Fiddle and mandolin add colour here and there, overall they’re a pretty rocking combo. Her writing has come on leaps and bounds and there’s a couple of songs here that could and should become standards. All of the songs are about the male/female struggle with Fences writing from the woman’s point of view. She is in turn bitter, triumphant, sad, yearning and vengeful as her characters go through all sorts of emotions while suffering from the slings and arrows of deceitful men who drink, cheat and in the case of Trophy Wife remake her via plastic surgery and dentistry into a real life Barbie. Fences successfully portrays a sense of poor self esteem in Something Right and Pain Relief and captures the lengths some woman go to in order to keep a relationship going on We’ll Just Figure It Out. However she celebrates those hardy characters who stand up for themselves and say enough is enough on I’ll Stop My Whining, Pretty Lies and Too Far Gone. She excels on The Next Time which is a classic country ballad in the Tammy Wynette mode. Beautifully delivered it takes some time to realise that the heroine is being advised to soup up her lovemaking in order to keep her man. Almost as good and grand enough to earn the honky tonk heaven accolade is One More Honky Tonk where drinking is seen as the salve to recover from a failed relationship. Classic in its delivery Fences throws in a nice euphemism as she sings
I get dressed up but you hardly look/Opening my door? /I guess that’s a thing of the past/Yeah, that honeymoon was sure over fast.
Overall this is a great album for anyone who digs the likes of Wayne “The Train” Hancock, Loretta Lynn or even Tammy Wynette. Leyla Fences lives and breathes this music it seems and tops it up with a fine, sassy and at times barbed feminist slant. Great stuff.

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One More Honky Tonk

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