Pennies & Heartaches
To be starting a solo career in your late thirties, it takes guts. But considering the idyllic surroundings of his breathtaking home in the woods of Mistelås in the southern parts Sweden, there really can't be any better place to start for Stefan Leoson. The enviroment, meadows, green pastures and fresh country air, is so beautiful it must be ideal for a singer and songwriter looking for peace, quiet and inspiration. But, make no mistake, Stefan Leoson is no rookie and the impressive work that is his first solo album, Pennies And Heartaches has nothing to do with beginners luck. His musical background is as diverse as his personal. From heavy metal merchant in local heroes Ariel in his adolescent town of Lessebo, via eclectic Swedish pop with the semi-successful Picassos Äventyr combo, through personal setbacks (including a near-fatal motorcycle accident) and successes (starring and arranging musicals in Växjö). And further more, the late advent of true love in the shape of wife Karin, and their two children. All of this, and more, can be heard in Stefans music. Pennies And Heartaches, was created, or more correctly conceived, in his own Steps studio and it is literally the work of one man. Not because it was a necessity, but because it was convenient. The amazing thing about it is that it sounds like a band record homogenous, accessible and yet diverse in it's emotional range. The influences, ranging from Coldplay and Travis, via the likes of Del Amitri and Jars of Clay, has comfortably found their place in Stefans music, sprung from a tradition of songwriting where melody comes first. It is a grown mans work, with lyrics capturing the big issues of life through the little details. Not bitter or cynical, but exciting, almost exhubarant, filtrated as through the eyes of a curious and wonderous child. It is, simply put, beautiful. The start-and-stop-arrangement on opener I Don't Know Where To Start, a statement if ever there was one, the infectious The Beggar And The Queen, a local hit, and This Spell display the catchier side of Stefans songwriting, while the thrilling Running Won't Make Your Problems Go Away, the low-key masterful Killing Time and killer closer What I've Done perfectly balance the record and turns it into a coherent musical piece of talent and passion. The vocal delivery is magnificent understated at times, raucous, almost angry at times, but always emotive and engaging, and it makes you wonder about whether these songs are sung from the heart, or from that peculiar place we call the soul. And although Pennies And Heartaches may de facto be a debut, it sounds, and feels like Stefan Leoson is a bonafide artist, a singer and songwriter who, despite his own statement, undoubtly knows where to start and that there is no stopping him now.