The minute someone finds themselves in the public eye, there’s a certain amount of hype and mythdom that attaches itself. Sometimes the hype and mythdom is outrageous; sometimes the hype and mythdom is warranted.
Early last week, I received my copy of Preston Leatherman‘s debut EP, “The Departure.”
Before opening the package, Preston’s music was described to me this way: “If Jason Mraz had a baby with Maroon 5, and Michael Jackson was the Godfather, it would be Preston Leatherman.” That’s a lot to live up to, and many of you who are reading this are probably wondering if Preston lives up to that billing. Here’s what I learned first-hand about Preston.
The first thing that struck me was how unpretentious Preston is. Even before I listened to the first track, even before I pulled the CD from the sleeve … Preston was unpretentious. The CD is friendly and welcoming, and politely says Preston cares about the world in which he lives. How can I say that? He along with James Lucente, Chris Keaton and Lee Lessack took the time to consider the effects of shrink wrapping on the environment, and chose to do without more plastic in landfills. That one little unspoken statement speaks volumes about the kind of person Preston just happens to be and the kind of people that work with him.
When I listen to music, I listen to it on a number of different levels which means I listen to a new CD a number of times before forming an opinion on the music and on the recording artist. I can tell you, however, that no matter how often I listened to this CD, there was no getting away from the fun factor … the factor that makes you tap your toes, and (once you know the songs) humming or singing along.
When it came to listening to “Saturday” I was somewhat apprehensive after another artist released a song a while back that was also named after a day of the week. However, the 70s and all its familiar harmony and chord structure quickly put to rest any concerns anyone might have about this song.
The Motown influenced “Whatever You Want” segued into the quirky but pop-culture influenced “Feel This Way” whose video garnered over 40,000 views in its first week on YouTube (not even a month after its YouTube debut, the video had almost 83,000 views). The strings married TSOP strings and dance club beats and emotional angst.
The acoustic intro of “She’s No You” is one of those songs that is, quite simply, beautiful. The arrangement is open and breezy, and the lyrics talk about that universal feeling everyone has at least once in a lifetime. It’s as if Preston had channeled Chris Rea, Don McLean, Smokey Robinson and the Four Tops while writing this song.
And the final cut, “Harmony” carried with it an innocence rarely found in music these days. A soft-shoe two-step that left me impressed with not only the CD but with the performer himself.
His bio says that Preston began playing piano at age 5, and is classically trained. Somewhere along the way, Preston fell in love with the Motown sound and jazz piano, and over the years, he taught himself how to play guitar, drums, and a number of other instruments. Music may not be his entire world, but his world certainly has healthy representation from the audio section of the universe.
The only downside to Preston’s CD is that I would have liked ten songs instead of five songs. That being said, his next CD is already penciled in on my Christmas wish list whenever Preston decides to record and release his next CD.
Overall, Preston’s music is fresh, unique, and reminiscent of other great performers without being a copycat. That’s pretty hard to pull off in this day and age where so many artists are busy trying to fashion themselves after the latest flavor of the week. This is why Preston Leatherman will be anything but the latest flavor of the week. The man is here for a long time and we’re just seeing the very beginning of that long time.
And if any of you haven’t picked up your copy of Preston’s CD “The Departure” then I strongly suggest you get yourself down to your local music store or surf over to iTunes and download this CD to your iPods. And don’t be surprised if you find yourself somewhere out in public, dancing like nobody’s watching with an iPod in a shopping mall or in downtown Chicago or anywhere else in the world.