Brooklyn-based singer/songwriter Will Leet, is also known as the lead guitarist of international touring act, Sammy Rae & The Friends. His September debut release Come Back Roses, is a community-sourced, crowdfunded project. It is the culmination of seven years of songwriting with his partner, Chris Burns. Leet produced the album himself, and recorded it during the covid pandemic across five studios in three states with nearly 25 different musicians. Fun fact: basic tracking began on a tape reel at Dreamland Studios in Kingston, New York. Many instruments can be heard on this 11-track album, some include the upright bass, fiddle, banjo, vibraphone, pedal steel and the timpani. The album’s overarching themes are about loss, growth and renewal. When life was put on hold in 2020, Leet had nothing left to do put pour every ounce of himself into these songs. Come Back Roses is a hope that the simple joys in life will return again. As far as genre, it’s an eclectic mix of hard rock, folk, country, bluegrass and baroque pop. With influences ranging from Kacey Musgraves and Willie Nelson, to Death Cab for Cutie and the Beatles - the band left no stone unturned. At its musical core, these are melodramatic songs sung over a campfire with an acoustic guitar - but when the rock band roars in, you can feel the chaos of New York City.
To begin, “Wildflower Thief” has got a clean, acoustic pop sound. But to contrast the softer tones in the beginning, comes a wild ride of drums and distorted guitars in dramatic flair. Overall, a fantastic arrangement of sounds and instruments. “The Corner” opens with a solid drum groove, warm country-toned guitar riffs and a rhythm section that’s got its hand in both country and rock. I like the repeating line,”I’ma go to the corner just to see if it’s alive” sung in unison. It made this song seem like one of those feel good party songs that everyone loves to sing along to. “Cloudy Day” is a more somber tune and softer in its delivery. Man, this song got to me - there’s so much love and honesty in the words of this song. And the music is gorgeous too - a mix of country pop and soft rock. I’m a sucker for songs that mention good memories from the past, old friends and past regrets that have since faded. Highly recommend this track. The “County Fair” feels like something you might hear at a county fair - a little bluegrass, a little country folk. I thought the bells was a sweet addition, but the vocal harmonies are what caught my ears on this number. Musically, if this song was a bit more pop rock, I would say Will Leet and company remind me of Michael Penn or Crowded House.
On “Louisiana Goodbye” you’ll hear Leet playing acoustic guitar with some backing vocals, in this number about being swept off your feet - “I think you’re gonna be my reason for a good time.” “NYC Cowboy” is one of the album’s slower paced songs, well, yes and no. Leet and company mix traditional country tones with twangy guitar, lap steel and organ and contrast that with heavy, hard rock n’ roll. This is a fantastic track from start to finish! Lyrically, it’s about a shady character on the lamb, who got himself mixed up in some robbery and hitchhiked with “southern shores on his mind,” leaving his wife and kids behind. Didn’t even bother to call his dear old mom. A bad ass, no-good-two-bit that only Johnny Cash could love. “Magdalene” has got an interesting feel and sound. I would say it’s got elements of indie folk, baroque pop and Americana rock. This is another tune I would highly recommend listening to. If this was intended to be a love song, then it’s one of the most eloquently written ones I’ve ever heard. Next up is “Alice (ft. Sammy Rae & the Friends)” which is a happy sounding, bouncing tune, filled with warm bass tones, banjo, fiddle and a country beat. This bluegrass, rockabilly spirited song was fun to listen to - especially the choral part.
“Dearly Darlin’” is another great heartfelt song and from what I can tell, it’s about unrequited love or a one night stand, or both? Musically, this one is more folk with a beautiful, inspiring melody. In some ways. It reminds me of the softer side of Billy Bragg. “Satan & the Sailor” has got a terrific mix of bluegrass and Americana style. I was hoping I would hear the timpani soon and this song has it, not to mention the mellotron, if I’m not mistaken. Even though this song has elements of classic bluegrass, the added non-traditional instruments, like the timpani, gives this song a lot of originality. The last track, “Rainbow” is perhaps the album’s most poignant song - I think it’s about realizing that life doesn’t owe you any favors, so make the most of it. There’s a lot of heart and soul written in the words and the piano melody, too. The sad melancholy tones remind me of Billy Joel, while the upbeat part reminds me of Paul McCartney. And I loved the note Leet ended the song on - I can’t tell you which one it was, but man, it was perfect. Another awesome tune I would recommend listening to. But honestly, I would recommend listening to all of Come Back Roses. For a debut, I think it’s top notch.