On paper, it almost seems like this partnership should not work. Lahna Deering is coy and sexy, whereas Rev Neil Down is blunt and not at all bashful. She cajoles and persuades, he bonks you over the head. Can’t possibly work, correct? Wrong, and in fact you couldn’t be more wrong. For all the stylistic differences between these two, what emerges when they work together is a third and completely independent entity. For all the diversity in style and approach, the common element that binds these two is abandon, plain and simple, and that makes for a very good rock ’n roll album. Abandon, when used right, is that perfect combination of arrogance and ability and it’s perhaps the strongest single element of this release.
Deering gets her chance to show off her completely opposite vocal stylings as well. Tracks like “The Other Night” and “Angel In Your Eyes” are perfect vehicles for her comparatively subtle passion, and she shows that she’s equally comfortable with influences as diverse as Americana and fifties/sixties pop songs. However, don’t be fooled by the less aggressive approach she exhibits - the songs are full of emotion and observation, a wonderful combination when done as well as it’s done here. She’s not limited to ballads, either. For example, “River City” is as good a midtempo rocker as you’ll hear, full of enough hooks to fill a tackle box and with a lead vocal that starts out beautifully understated and eventually swaggers back into abandon by the time the chorus rolls around. This happens all the way through the record, with the duo taking you up and down in tempo and emotion, never losing effectiveness, never giving a reason for the listener to drift away - the songs are just too interesting for that.
Adding to the album’s sonic appeal is the engineering and production, both credited to Doug Easley. The album is very well recorded and sounds perfectly spontaneous, though logic and experience tell me that lots of the touches and flourishes that keep this record interesting had to be the result of some thought put into things. I particularly like the guitar tones used throughout; Easley shows a fantastic understanding as to when a song needs something distantly lonesome on one track, driving and in your face on another. Once I became familiar with the album, I heard something a little different on each subsequent listen; that, along with the pure quality of the songwriting and performances here are what keep me coming back over and over again.
While there’s not a bad track out of the thirteen songs here. “Heart Full Of Love” is the album’s masterpiece to these ears. The song is full of attitude that comes from that place somewhere between hope and desperation, much like so many of the greatest songs ever written about love. The music reminds me stylistically of that era of the Rolling Stones when they were so great - it’s loose and reckless and full of frustration. “When I went to bed you were in my head and you stayed the whole night through / When I went to bed, it was just like I said, honey - everything was all about you… Please allow me to show ya what a thrill it is to know ya…” Wow. Who can’t relate to that burning feeling of there being somebody you want so badly but can maybe only have in your mind?
And that, in a nutshell, is the essence of this release - grit, grind, glory and grace, and all of it with abandon. This is guaranteed a cherished spot in my “Best of 2016” list, and I strongly suspect I’ll be going back to this one again and again for a good many years.
It's worth mentioning that Lahna and Neil are really good people as well as truly gifted artists. They're as entertaining to have conversation with as they are on record - fun, funny, irreverent and serious, all when appropriate. Their website has plenty of information and also features freebie downloads of quite a few of their songs: http://deeringanddown.com/