BEN LEECE NO WONDER THE WORLD IS EXHAUSTED

The solo debut from onetime Delta Lions member Ben Leece is a suitably patinated window on the soul of a beleaguered poet. Produced by Shane Nicholson, it’s an album alternately charged with raw and ragged romance (opener ‘Rebel Alone’) and chafing with understated disquiet. The carousing ‘Highway Not the Dream’ captures the swagger of the Stones circa Exile on Main Street, while emotive highlight ‘Villains’ draws on the sounds of alt. country’s 90s ascendency. There’s a classic country amble in the fiddle- and- steel-detailed ‘Sunny Side’, while ‘Smoke Signals’ throbs like a weary heart, leisured drums punching through a shroud of frayed guitars. Leece delivers a gloriously mordant slant on familial resentments in ‘Apple Tree’ (‘if the cigarettes don’t kill you, well, the loneliness sure will’), before signing off with the lingering vocal spell of ‘Stuck to My Guns’. The world may be exhausted, but Ben Leece just might have the tonic. Gareth Hipwell