Walt McClements is the multi-instrumentalist leader of New Orleanspunk orchestra Why Are We Building Such a Big Ship?; he’s also a member of New Orleans’s Panorama Jazz Band, and on top of that he’s a collaborator and touring member of Dark Dark Dark. He is a very, very busy young man. And yet, with all that on his plate, there is "I Am No Captain," the starkly beautiful debut album from Lonesome Leash, an immaculately disheveled affair that finds him channeling all of his musical projects into a lean, mean and gorgeously messy one-man affair.
Originally from Durham, North Carolina, McClements settled in New Orleans in 2004, twenty-years old and fresh from wanderings that found him crisscrossing the States and dipping down into Mexico. In New Orleans he found common cause with the burgeoning culture of kids fanatical about playing traditional American music like country and jazz, but who also were relentlessly experimental and open, throwing in touches of Gypsy swing, Balkan brass, and other disparate inspirations to create a unique local musical hybrid.
Anchored by the sinuous accordion sound that’s become a McClements trademark, Lonesome Leash takes some mad aesthetic stabs, incorporating drum loops, piercing feedback and brass flourishes, in the end creating a sort of future-rustic musical aesthetic.
McClements explains it like this: "I’d always been interested in affecting the accordion to make it sound more like a synthesizer, and more than a synthesizer, as well as including drum machines and electronics into what normally would — or could be — very traditional sounding textures."
Lonesome Leash trades in the sort of heavy-breathing ecstatic joy and fatalistic romanticism that pervades New Orleans, but translates to any location and into any language. Songs like "Fade Away" encapsulate that feeling you get when you and a friend are rolling cigarettes together on a porch as the sun dips below the horizon, and you can feel stray bits of tobacco on your lips and everything seems, just for a moment, like it’s going to be all right. But it’s also music for a new wave dance party in a falling-down shotgun house ("Pelican"), and it can be recognized by anybody who’s ever had a mad romance followed by having their heart shattered into a thousand pieces, as heard on the epic album-closer "Ghosts." Lonesome Leash is music for the lonely ones; for the triumphant and the nervous; it’s the soundtrack to the lives of the mad and magnificent everyone.