Over the past decade (and the decade prior for that matter), Portland, Oregon has arguably become one of the top burgeoning U.S. cities in regards to its music scene, as demonstrated by the city’s ability to both produce and nurture a bevy of talented musicians. PDX has cultivated an incredible roster of both past and present acts who’ve made their own marks on today’s scene—Elliott Smith, the Decemberists, Stephen Malkmus, the Dandy Warhols, the Thermals, Menomena, White Rainbow, Spoon’s Britt Daniel (who relocated from another U.S. music capital—Austin, Texas), and so many more musicians who find their talents housed well within Portland’s culturally-bursting, Stumptown-drinking, bike-toting walls.
Ten years ago, singer-songwriter Leigh Marble moved to Portland because, as he told the Willamette Weekly in an interview back in October, “there was space to make an imprint,” and it appears that his assumption was correct. Portland’s underground music scene has expanded to showcase a number of multi-faceted and creative acts; similarly, Marble has expanded himself on his second full-length to make Red Tornado, a well-formed rootsy rock album executed in true singer-songwriter style. “Lucky Bastards” cranks open Tornado‘s doors with powerful, bluesy slide riffs and a full-bodied organic sound, leading nicely into the harmonica-crusted “On Your Way” and the sweetly acoustic “Salt in the Wound.” From there, “Fast & Loose” is extremely likeable in its folksy pep, and “Baby Ruth” gives way to fully demonstrate Marble’s deftness at transforming his emotions into original and compelling melodies.
This is unfortunately where the album falls flat for a few songs – the talent is still there, but the songs don’t quite aspire to the heights that the first half of the album managed to reach. However, taking himself to the end of the album with the sprawling “Stakes,” stitched together nimbly with layers of guitars and accordion riffs and Marble’s vocals (which can be likened to a grittier Conor Oberst), Red Tornado springs back to the enthusiastic originality from whence it came. Marble has undeniable talent as both a singer and a songwriter as he forges ahead on Red Tornado—the best songs on the album are intricately crafted and clearly come from an unadulterated state of mind. And while the album as a whole doesn’t quite peak, between his own demonstrated abilities and his location within the musically-fertile grounds of Portland, there’s no telling as to what enjoyable music Marble still has in store.