The band name is a bit of a misnomer. LA Littlebear Band is the result of one man’s efforts, Leo Auciello, and the resulting sixteen song opus never tries listener’s patience despite its sprawling reach. Auciello hails from the Sydney, Australia area and this 2016 album shows him to be a musician and songwriter of far reaching talents and with substantive emotional depth. The lack of a supporting cast for the recording is no hindrance – instead, Auciello proves to be one of those rare musicians whose personality somehow comes through no matter what instrument they hold. His songwriting reaches for lofty peaks, ask hard questions, and possess a personal slant that’s impossible to deny and a major component in the album’s charm. The production certainly has a DIY spirit, but it doesn’t have those sort of sonics. Instead, it grabs the audience by its collar and keeps them nose to nose with the material for the album’s duration. It makes for a bracing experience.
The opener “In the Long Ago” is a crackerjack rock guitar barnburner. Auciello’s six string thrashing has a strongly serrated quality and the song’s ragged but right uptempo thrust has an inescapably visceral charge. “Pretty Girl” is a much chunkier guitar riffer with cawing, lower register vocals from Auciello and a straight-ahead musical attack with all the subtlety of a hammer blow to the face. The energy though is quite powerful. The first inkling of lighter fare comes with the track “The Longest Road”, but Auciello rarely resists the temptation to incorporate some form of a guitar workout and this track is no exception. His performance of “At the Gates” is a stab at a bit of psychedelia, but the effects are limited to some electronically treated vocals and lightly phased acoustic guitars.
“When Your Right” is a fresh marriage of soft-pedaled rockabilly strains coupled with an outright blues influence that makes for an excellent stylistic shift on the album. Auciello proves himself, time and again, to be a surprisingly underrated singer with the capacity for making these lyrics genuinely come to life. The song “Cynical View” is one of the album’s best thanks to its multiple parts blending seamlessly into each other, the sheer variety of approaches he takes with his guitar, the rhythm section, and experiments with shifting tempos make this a gripping performance. “All Fall Down” is an outright love song, but nothing strung out on hollow platitudes and the musical energy is off the charts compared to what we normally hear with such songs. The bright acoustic guitar work kicking off “Deeper Than You” commands your attention and Auciello’s declamatory vocal style sounds inflamed with passion. The album’s finale “Zoot Suit Monkey” has a playful, off-kilter jump blues vibe, but a closer inspection of the lyrics reveals a track a little darker and deeper than it presents itself. It’s a raucous conclusion to an album that never keeps things between the lines for long. Thank god for that.
9 out of 10 stars