VENUE NOTE: Entree required - this is a supper club, and menu items start at just $10. No drink minimums. Portion of the cover charge goes to Feed The Need, the Campus JAX outreach to feed the local homeless population. Over 15,000 meals served.
Brennen Leigh is as solid a roots artist as they come, drawing on influences from Hank Williams to Cindy Walker.
Delightfully old-fashioned and born 60 years too late, she’s always worked Western Swing influences into her music, and been chummy with the Asleep at the Wheel crowd in Austin. But now as a Nashville resident, the distance has made her heart grow fonder for that distinctly Texas style of country, and she’s going all in with her new album.
“When I moved to Nashville from Texas, for some reason it triggered another western swing phase in my life,” says Brennen Leigh. “I was out of Texas, but something about the swing was still grabbing me; I was listening to a lot of Bob Wills, and of course The Wheel. I had first been exposed to Western swing through my parents’ Asleep At The Wheel records while I was growing up.”
“Obsessed with the West” is officially be Brennen Leigh’s seventh solo album and includes 12 songs written by Leigh herself, with Cindy Walker as her spirit animal, guiding her pen. And along with duets with Western Swing greats such as Ray Benson, Emily Gimble and Katie Shore, the entire albums is recorded with Asleep at the Wheel at her back, so you know the swing is authentic.
“This is my love note to Western Swing; to the rich culture it comes from, as I see it,” says Leigh, “I listen to and have been influenced by a lot of dead people, but our genre is important, and I think it deserves new life and new songs. The old stuff is where I come from, my songs turn out to be a melding of the old styles, whether I like it or not. I don’t know how not to put it in there.”
The album is not 100% Western Swing, though it is encapsulating of the era when Western Swing was the dominant influence in country music. “There’s definitely a jazz influence, country, and a couple of songs that I would call cowboy or folk tunes,” Brennen says.
Her 2015 album was titled Brennen Leigh Sings Lefty Frizzell, so this is an artist who truly knows the genre.
As part of the new album, she’s made the song “If Tommy Duncan’s Voice Was Booze” which is one of the all-time great Western swing concoctions. You re call the classic Waylon Jennings lyrics: “To hear the Texas Playboys, And Tommy Duncan sing, Makes me proud to be from Texas, Where Bob Wills is still the king.”
Obsessed with the West (Signature Sounds) is a showcase not just for The Wheel or Bob Wills fans, but for anyone who’s ever curled up with Lefty Frizzell, Billie Holiday, Willie Nelson or even Louis Armstrong.
Leigh’s wise-beyond-her-years perspective comes from her hard time on the road, and her accolades prove it: she is two-time Texas Music Awards Best Female Vocalist, 2018 Ameripolitan Music Honky Tonk Award winner, appeared as a finalist on USA Network’s Nashville Star television show in 2003, and most notably, was champion of the 1993 Vergas Loon Calling Contest as a child.
She has also been featured as an instrumentalist and singer on a myriad of releases by artists such as Jim Lauderdale, Rodney Crowell and James Hand. Having written songs previously for folks like Rodney Crowell, LeAnn Womack, Sunny Sweeney, and Charley Crockett, Brennen Leigh has proven her songs timeless, no matter what era or influence she brings to them.
Now she brings her show to Newport Beach where she is featured in a Sunday matinee at the esteemed supper club Campus JAX where so many of her friends and fellow artists have performed.
All ages, free parking, entree required, no drink minimums, dance floor, near John Wayne airport.
Doors at Noon, show starts at 1 pm. 3950 Campus Dr. Newport Beach.