Once Upon a Time may be the Leavers' debut, but they're no bunch of amateurs. Indeed, the local quintet collectively served as sidemen for no less than the Sextons, the Robisons, Kelly Willis, Alejandro Escovedo, and Jon Dee Graham. With four of the album's 10 tracks being covers, it's also fairly obvious the group got its start performing other people's songs. Still, they redeem themselves by choosing tunes by Blaze Foley and Gillian Welch and, curiously, Concrete Blonde. Led by singer-songwriter Steven Ray Will, the Leavers lay down some classically styled roots-rock that's occasionally undermined by the frontman's overly earnest vocals. With all that experience, one might expect them to understand that every song doesn't need to be an anthem. Nevertheless, Will's composition "Kalifornia" boasts a pleasing jangle and the band's rendition of Foley's "Clay Pigeons" haunts for all the right reasons.
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