Andrew Leahey / Andrew Leahey & the Homestead

Airwaves

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Following the removal of a brain tumor that sidelined his music career and threatened his life, Virginia-born songwriter and guitar slinger Andrew Leahey managed to bootstrap his way back to physical and creative health, releasing 2016's heartfelt roots rock album Skyline in Central Time and notching an impressive 175 dates on the road with his band, the Homestead. Somewhere along the way, the strength and stamina he'd built up merged with a renewed joie de vivre, and his songs began to get bigger and bolder. Playing with heightened passion and vigor, he slowly developed a new set of songs rooted in the enlivening rock & roll spirit of forebears like Bruce Springsteen and Tom Petty, two artists who fueled his imagination as a kid growing up in the late '80s. Built to rattle the cheap seats and honor the FM dial of his youth, Airwaves feels like the album Leahey should have released in the wake of his brush with death. While it still shares the innate optimism and earthy storytelling of its predecessor, Airwaves marks a departure from the more straightforward Americana sound of his earlier work and lets the big-hearted riffs and pop hooks work their magic without bowing to standard roots music conventions. Anchored by nostalgic audio love letters like "Start the Dance" and the mighty "Make It Last," Leahey is able to infuse his own personal narrative into a classic approach that is familiar and engaging without coming across as rote. The title cut is a particular highlight, with a Jeff Lynne-ian rhythmic tightness and a catchy pop chorus that casts its warm spotlight out into the darkness at the edge of town. Amid the sweet, soaring solos and punchy distorted riffs are subtle nods to past masters and universal themes of love and redemption, all framed by producer Paul Ebersold's deft but unshowy enhancements. Honest and satisfying, Airwaves earns its rightful place in the heartland rock canon and stands as Leahey's most appealing collection yet.

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