If you follow his scene, then you already know that the music of Leo Harmonay is no joke to hardcore folk fanatics, and in the indie sensation’s latest record, Naked Rivers, audiences that haven’t had the chance to take a look at his brilliantly honest melodies are provided with an unequaled picture window into the man, the music and the masterful talents of one of the underground’s most fascinating and underrated voices. Alternative singer/songwriters are having a banner year, but if you’ve been waiting for something a cut above the rest, you need to make listening to Naked Rivers a top priority.
Harmonay collaborates with singer Enlia for one of this LP’s most powerful compositions, “Lost Summer,” and I’ve got to say that it’s absolutely one of the most original duets I’ve heard in a long time. I hope that their work together isn’t isolated to this song, because what they do for each other in the seven minutes that “Lost Summer” dominates the air around us is tantamount to a pair of bold painters sharing the same canvas on a summer sunlit afternoon. They each create something that wouldn’t have been possible without the other’s influence, and it’s a landmark recording for both of their careers to say the least.
As incredible as the duet is, Leo Harmonay proves that he doesn’t need any kind of help at the microphone to induce chills on the spot in songs like “Lucky Guess,” “The Ballad of the Unknown River Driver,” the title track and “Patterns.” He’s got such a dynamic command of our attention in these songs, and yet none of the egotism that frequently plagues singer/songwriter outings like this one ever comes into play. Harmonay knows how to share the spotlight whilst directing the actions within any given performance to suit his particular artistic needs, and he has no problem demonstrating it here.
The guitars probably could have used a little less gusto in “You and the Sun” and “Labor Day,” but I suppose that I can understand the concept that Harmonay was going for in these two tracks. By making the levels on the string parts as formidable as they are on the keys, vocal and placid percussive elements, we never feel overpowered by any one component over another. This is a very tightly arranged LP, and I don’t doubt that its intricacies will likely be what earns it the respect of both the critics and Harmonay’s fans this month.
I just started getting into the music of Leo Harmonay, but through Naked Rivers I have become quite addicted to what he’s peddling in this current phase of his solo career. If this is a fair sample of what he can accomplish in the studio when there’s nothing to prevent him from doing whatever he wants creatively, then there’s no limit to what he could potentially record following the release of this powerfully emotional album. The 2020s are right around the corner, and with pop music collectively moving towards a rootsier sound than it did in the 2010s, it really is the perfect time for an artist like Harmonay to be coming into his own.