Leon Russell has this raspy voice. Dis-attached from the mainstream rock and country movement and unrelentingly HIS voice, Russell created a career out of being the oddball.
Only it was barely a career until recently. For a variety of reasons, Russell failed to capture an audience outside of a string of underappreciated releases in the early 70’s, until Elton John found him underneath the rebel of lost music and brought him into the limelight. I see the pair’s 2011 collaboration, the Union, a Leon Russell resurrection first and foremost. For once, Elton John takes a backseat to Russell’s impeccable understanding of song craft and piano-laden wonder.
The Glorious Sons created their own union. 2014’s The Union is the group’s debut album. It opens with a Boston-esque croon and some elegant processed guitar. The track knows how to build. Repeating that main melody for the duration of the song, the band drops it out in exchange for a big explosion- drums triumphantly come to the front and the lead singer wails over eruptive crescendos.
Leon Russell has always been the rebel of the genre. The Glorious Sons seem blatantly aware of their forbearer’s accomplishments. They have a raspy-voiced front man ill-concerned over hitting all the right notes, just that he hits notes at all. ‘Lighting’ is about atmosphere- an atmosphere created from that initial guitar line and the same kind of atmosphere building that Russell would do behind his piano. It is a gorgeous song, and arguably the best thing here. It also has a little bit of that indie rock flair brought out from the Strokes, Neon Trees, or Imagine Dragons.
Glorious Sons is both old and new. For every song that sounds like an indie rock tune repurposed for Pandora Radio ‘inde rock jams,’ another song is right out of 70’s rock thrills. “Mama” almost sounds recorded with the latter aesthetic in mind. It is so classic sounding it is clearly intentional. On the other hand, “Hard Times” is painstakingly polished. Gang chants erupt over clean guitars and the verse is pure 2014 indie pop/rock.
So the group manages a nice mixture of influences for a sound wholly their own while pulling taglines from Leon Russell and modern indie. They could also have never heard of the artist’s brilliant album with Elton John and this is all an inquisitive coincidence. But that is what creative music journalism is for. At the end of the day, my dad and I could enjoy the Glorious Sons together and feel both tied to nostalgic classics and in the new music moment at the same time.