Review: Leanne Regalla “Reluctant Rockstar”

Leanne Regalla “Reluctant Rockstar”

12 Mar, 2012 Matt Warnock

Humor and music have long gone together as a powerful songwriting duo meant to express one’s artistic side, as well as connect with an audience through laughter, wordplay and other humorous touches.  While some songwriters bring a large amount of comedy and humor to their writing, others use subtle humor in order to lighten the mood in their songs, allowing their music to retain a high musicality while bringing a smile to listener’s lips at the same time.  Southwestern Pennsylvania based vocalist Leanne Regalla is just such an artist, one that knows the value that a subtle humor can bring to a well-written song, and her personalized approach to songwriting can be heard on her 2011 album Reluctant Rockstar.  The album, which was named after the thoughts that all artists go through when bringing their music to a public audience, is a collection of eight folk, Americana inspired tracks that showcase both the serious and humorous side of Regalla’s artistic output.

The core of Regalla’s writing is her ability to create memorable textures with her voice and accompanying instruments.  Songs such as “Song for a Friend” are great examples of how the vocalist uses myriad texture changes to create interest and energy within the context of a single track.  Here, the acoustic guitar lays down a floating 3/4 strumming pattern that acts as the foundation for the vocals and other instruments to build upon.  The bass and drum grooves are very sparse, yet perfect for this particular feel and lyrical content.  It would have been easy to fill up the background with a drum beat played on a full kit, and a busier bassline. Instead, Regalla and company keep things simple, focusing on the melody and interplay between the various accompanying instruments, something that contributes to the song’s overall success and goes a long way to developing a connection with the listener.  To top things off, the mandolin and fiddle countermelodies float in and out of the forefront of the tune, helping to frame the vocal line and add extra layers of interest to the track.

Regalla also inserts a bit of humor into her lyrics as well as some lightheartedness into her music on tracks such as “Far Away From Here,” written by Bob Banerjee.  The track, which is centered around a driving guitar strumming pattern and drum beat, brings out the lighter side of the vocalist’s style.  While her lyrics will bring a smile to listener’s faces, that’s not to say that the music is not written with the same quality and seriousness as the rest of the album.  Mixing lighthearted lyrics and musical moments with well-written melodic and harmonic material, as well as tight grooves, is a staple of Regalla’s writing style, and is something that allows the songwriting to reach out to her audience while keeping a high musical standard at the same time.  Both of these attributes are big reasons why the album is successful as a whole, as well as why Regalla is able to bring a strong sense of personality to each track on the record.

To finish off the album, Regalla does something that not many vocalists would do; she includes an instrumental track, sans vocals.  “Dreamin’ of One Day” is an instrumental song that features the guitar and fiddle in the driver’s seat as they handle the melodic lines in place of the absent vocalist.  While the rest of the album is centered around Regalla’s vocal lines, this track is no less powerful.  In fact, having the confidence and musicality to include an instrumental track on a vocal album shows how creative Regalla is as a songwriter and recording artist.  While listeners might not be expecting this track to end the record, it is an interesting choice that provides another view into the songwriting world of this talented vocalist and her ensemble.

Reviewed by Matthew Warnock
Rating:  4.5 Stars (out of 5)