Hellbound Glory’s “Pinball” album review
Released: Friday, October 13, 2017
I’m glad Leroy Virgil of Hellbound Glory chose to work with Shooter Jennings to create and release this album, Pinball, as he spent the last six years honing his craft on the road. His previous albums, Damaged Goods (2011), Old Highs and New Lows (2010), and Scumbag Country (2008), are musts for any music aficionado. Leroy is the master of ceremonies for the band Hellbound Glory, as writer, performer, and singer. He plays gigs with a select group of musicians on coast-to-coast tours. Shooter (Waylon’s son) has his own Black Country Rock label and one of the best address books in LA; he is involved in the production, promotion, and distribution of this album. I can hear his family influences weaved throughout, and each time it feels like a gift.
It’s cool to watch the launch of a new album from my ez-chair. Our first peek was on the vinyl pre-order including the track list:
- ‘Merica (The Good Ole U.S.A.)
- That’s Just What I Am
- Six Strings Away
- Vandalism Spree
- Sun Valley Blues #3 (Bloodweiser)
- Empty Bottles
- Delta Dawn
- Hellbound Blues
- Another Bender Might Break Me
- Blue Yodel Number 5 (California Blues)
Rolling Stone Magazine featured the song Sun Valley Blues #3 (Bloodweiser) where Leroy declares his love for Meghan McCain (whom I follow on Twitter and am impressed with how she handles her social media). She thanked him for the mention and was immediately vilified for her political opinions and abhorrent comments were posted about her father (Senator John McCain). It will never cease to amaze and sicken me the levels of cruelty we carelessly toss about. She displayed ninja qualities of poise and decorum as no good deed goes unpunished. Well Meghan I saw it, appreciate it, and bet you made Leroy blush.
Then the promo video for the Whisky-A-Go-Go release party directed by Bob Wayne:
The second drop was Empty Bottles and its Leroy at his finest laying his soul out in front of you. The line “I don’t drink from the bottle, the bottle drinks from me” hit me as the human condition in a lyric. The form of the demon doesn’t matter, what does is our enslavement to it. It’s also a raw look at how we deal with our pain; this song must have been difficult to live and write.
The third drop was Vandalism Spree and I don’t like it. There’s a version he released September last year where the lyrics are grittier and it doesn’t have an oompa beat. I admit my bias to his raw sound, and I’m glad he took the opportunity to work with a country band for a full sound.
Twangri-La wrote a fantastic review and described Delta Dawn as “… one of the best country covers I have EVER heard. Delta Dawn (Track 8) is better than any words I can use to make a description. It literally gave me the shivers. Truth be told, the Helen Reddy version was my favorite song when I was eight years old. I have always had a soft spot for that song and Hellbound Glory not only just the song justice, but they completely elevate the number into another galaxy.” To me, Hellbound Glory’s live performance of Delta Dawn is indescribable. I heard him perform it on the road last winter and immediately got psyched for this. He’d pair it with Knocked off That Horse, and then ease into One Way Trackmarks to a crowd pleasing trifecta. This track is the best version captured in a studio that begs to be played at full volume.
On the Tuesday before the Friday the 13th release, he dropped the title track Pinball through The Boot. It’s outlaw entertainment and I can’t wait to see the dances to this one. It illustrates the underbelly of a night in the party lifestyle that corporate musicians don’t dare touch. There’s a hillbilly bling shine on today’s pop country and Leroy keeps it in the gutter with Bukowski-worthy lyrics.
American Songwriter Magazine streamed the album in its entirety on the Wednesday before launch. In an interview, Leroy offered his perspective on it: “These are my songs and it’s my voice but in this case I’m gonna give Shooter Jennings the credit, and the blame,” Leroy Virgil says. “On a pinball machine the shooter is the gadget that you pull to spring the ball into the game. For this album, Shooter picked the songs, put the musicians together, and decided on Pinball as the title. He even gave me a Bitcoin to sing a couple original lines that I tried to soften up.” I streamed it until I wore it. The first few spins were for my neighbors within earshot of my windows, then I popped on the headphones and got up close and personal.
Right after he eviscerates you with Delta Dawn, he shakes you with Hellbound Blues; one of my favorites because it proves me wrong and shows me why. The first version was recorded on his iPhone while on tour in Norway and man oh man I did not like it. I thought it was a shrieky testosterone filled rant. Also next to one of my favorites, Cold Dark Summer Days, it did not stand up. Now I see with a hard-ass beat and rock guitar, the lyrics pack a punch and it resonates instead of repels.
In the last six years, he released a few songs here and there as part of his process. If you remember, his Waylon Cover, Six Strings Away, was on “Foke Songs Episode #1” in 2014 (not in current distribution). This version is dressed up in the studio for professional release.
My favorite re-release is Another Bender Might Break Me for those of us who first heard it on the album, Old Highs and New Lows (2009). I always enjoy hearing a re-release of his especially years later to hear the progression in his voice and presentation. He really belts it out on this one and I’m so glad to have this version.
My favorite new-to-me song is the last track, Blue Yodel Number 5 (California Blues). It’s so nice to hear a song fresh and studio pressed. The original is by Bob Wills and Leroy has been working on that yodel for years. I like everything about this song, the lyrics, tempo, musicianship, and of course, that yodel. Do yourself a favor, look up the Bob Wills original on YouTube, then play this. As good as Leroy is with his own lyrics, his cover game is fierce.
The most personal song I think is That’s Just What I Am because it’s pretty much the story of the past six years of his life. It’s presented with a full band backing him and Rico on lap-steel. It’s the perfect bookend to ‘Merica (The Good Ole U.S.A.). This is when I hear Bruce Springsteen in him and it would make a great stadium song. I want to hear it sung by tens of thousands of fans.
If you want to know what country music today is, I offer this album. Pinball is produced by Waylon’s son with his band to show the world who carries the torch. If that ain’t country, you can kiss my ass.
Since launch, there have been some fantastic reviews and interviews:
Gary Hayes Country (review): http://garyhayescountry.com/album-feature-hellbound-glory-pinball/
Farce the Music (interview): http://www.farcethemusic.com/2017/10/leroy-virgil-of-hellbound-glory-farce.html
Saving Country Music (review): http://www.savingcountrymusic.com/album-review-hellbound-glorys-pinball/
Rolling Stone Country Interview: http://www.rollingstone.com/country/features/how-a-yearlong-bender-shaped-hellbound-glorys-new-album-w509062