Women Making Music
Leigh Glass and the Hazards
By: Peggy Ratusz
Which came first, the chicken or the egg, the egg or the chicken, the chicken or the egg, are the lines to the first solo North Carolina native Leigh Glass ever sang. She was dressed in a white bunny costume alongside other five-year-olds in animal costumes at a school Easter celebration choral concert. She’s been singing solos alongside animals dressed as humans ever since.
Like so many, she began her musical path in church, in school plays and talent shows. Recognizing her propensity for music and dance, at age eight her parents enrolled her in the Haywood County clogging and chorus called Smoky Mountain Kids. It was good stomping grounds for this maven of words and melody.
In junior high and high school she played the flute and studied piano. But she didn’t pick up a guitar until she was 22 years old. She calls her self-taught strategy “glorified cheating” to get “near the same place” as trained instrumentalists.
Additionally, Language Arts was her forte in high school and her love of history and stories remains her inspiration. She writes from personal experiences as well as those of real and fictional people. Because she and her first partners picked, played and sang Gospel, Old Time and Bluegrass on the porches of Cold Mountain, her first songs were thus influenced.
In person and over the phone during our interview, her speaking voice is deliberate and has that full sexy Southern draw that makes Yankee men melt. It translates effectively into the melodies she conjures up to match the lyrics she generally starts with when crafting a tune. In 2005, she solicited players to support, arrange and perform a notebook full of completed songs she’d been writing or working on for over ten years. She’s evoked a plethora of voice comparisons made by reviewers who mention Pat Benatar, Alannah Miles and Joan Jett. I concur but will add that she embodies a warm yet gutsy, tender yet evocative, playful and sensuously unique vocal style.
Jazzy Grass is the way she describes the sound of her first band called Voodoo Tavern consisting of an upright bassist, percussionist and Jazz guitarist. They played venues like Fred’s Speakeasy and The Grey Eagle. Leigh Glass and the Sweet Bitters morphed from that first quartet to an acoustic Jazz trio. Eventually she decided she wanted a fatter sound so she solicited an electric bassist and full kit drummer and that group became The Leigh Glass Band. They played local haunts Hannah Flanagans, French Broad Brewery, Jack of the Wood, Mo Daddy’s and Tressa’s. With her newest electric guitarist and co-vocalist Corey Bullman beside her, her current lineup also consists of her boyfriend Patrick Wells on drums and Bryan White from Brushfire Stankgrass on electric bass. They call themselves Leigh Glass and the Hazards.
Channeling Led Belly, Mississippi John Hurt, Tom Petty, Lucinda Williams, The Cowboy Junkies and the Rock and Pop music from the 90s, as well as Journey and Fleetwood Mac, you get an idea where Leigh is when it comes to themes and grooves. The marrying of these styles makes for an assertive, heady, meaty and persuasive library.
Equipped with pen and paper by her bedside, she actually dreams her themes sometimes, knowing that if she doesn’t write them down in the middle of the night, they’ll be gone by the day’s first light. Later, she allows these images and phrases to guide her into the story they were meant to tell and melody they were meant to own.
Her first of soon-to-be-three albums is called The Saints and the Creole Angels. Recorded at Collapsible Studio in Asheville it is a gathering of Bluesy, Acoustic Rock and Americana that takes the listener through a scorned woman’s cognitive healing work. Flooded with more and new ideas, Leigh experiences what many artists notoriously do: a second collection ripening while a current release is being sent from studio to press.
Seeking balance and a desire to remain introspective while knowing both those come from the endeavor of walking in another’s shoes, her second release The Drone was recorded in a home studio and explores love and loss from the male perspective. This one made the top 20 on WNCW’s list in 2010. “Being beat down by life’s misfortunes and love gone wrong” is what she says about the songs. This offering contains stories in a “hard Folk” format. Drone sounding and drone laden guitar and bass segue to lyrics that invoke the very definition of the one male bee’s job to continuously mate with the Queen; to a life sequestered and imprisoned within the hive and in the end, to fulfill his destiny by chewing off his wings.
Something in the Water, her upcoming release spawned from the regurgitation of the material from The Drone plus The Saints and the Creole Angels, promises redemption, dreams realized to fruition with faith, hope and love the primary goal of the characters and you. She describes this assembling of tracks “Crazy good Gospel and Swampy Blues.”
Her summer schedule each year consists of mini tours that include festivals, arenas and club dates from here to Charleston and beyond. The coast’s desire for Blues and Rock, and her band in particular has made this annual summer jaunt her favorite. The Hippodrome in Charleston is a venue she’ll play this summer for the first time, along with Nashville based Rock band Drivin’ & Cryin’ and she’s super excited about that. She’ll play her usual stint at The Pauley’s Island Tavern and the Awendaw Green in the South Carolina town of the same name.
Friday, April 6th at Highland Brewery here in Asheville at 6pm is the official CD release party for Something in the Water which was recorded in three parts at Echo Mountain Studio, Brevard Music Studio and at Chip Martin’s studio in Nashville. This show will feature guest players from the CD including Garry Segal on harmonica, Aaron LaFalce on piano and Forrest Smith on guitar.
Kickstarter is the world’s largest online funding platform that Leigh and the band as well as many independent recording artists around the world use to finance artistic projects. Without it she says, “The release would not have been possible.” For more information about Kickstarter, google them and you will find detailed information and reviews.
Although she plans to take a much needed break from recording, the inspiration cycle knows no rules or boundaries, so of course she’s already writing new material. It’s the plight and so too the obligation and joy of the minstrel to continue the dance, to push on in the quest to find the truth about which came first, the chicken or the egg.
Peggy Ratusz is a writer, songstress and vocal coach. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or learn more at reverbnation.com/peggyratusz