Ain’t Through Honky Tonkin’ Yet
By rights, Brennen Leigh’s 2022 western-swing outing with Asleep at the Wheel, Obsessed With the West, should have made the former Austinite some new fans. If so, they’ll find here some fresh evidence that her talents as a singer and writer go well beyond the Wheel’s wheelhouse.
Leigh has a soft spot for country music’s sweet spot, the music of the late 1960s, and her own songs could go toe to toe with the best of that era. They might even be confused for the old songs if it weren’t for a sliver of critique, a self-awareness that seeps out every now and then.
But the lyrics are never arch or smug or showily clever; just smart. All but one of the 12 originals on Ain’t Through Honky Tonkin’ Yet are co-writes, but Leigh’s stamp runs throughout. “Running Out of Hope, Arkansas,” with its neat turn in the title (she’s not without hope, just determined to leave Hope), is a scampering tale of an aging convenience store clerk who won’t be happy until “every inch of Arkansas is facing my behind.”
In “When Lonely Came to Town,” Leigh and Thom Schuyler turn loneliness into an uninvited guest who scatters her luggage, moves from room to room and won’t be leaving anytime soon. Several phrases linger: “Hell hath no fire like blind desire”; “Every time I do, I remember why I don’t”; “Somebody’s drinking about you.”
But the words wouldn’t register without Leigh’s melodies and in-the-pocket delivery. She’s supported by a top-shelf crew that includes Marty Stuart, Rodney Crowell and Chris Scruggs, who also produced.
The album cover shows Leigh beside a Wurlitzer jukebox. These songs belong on it.