Polyinstrumentalist (and photographer) Leland Ettinger named part of her band and part of this song after Joan Didion—the part that says, “So let them lay / let them play,” of course. And the spirit of Didion’s White Album is hard at work on Ettinger’s “Luck of the Draw,” a far-ranging canyon-country pocket-epic made from light and shadow with waves of the Mamas & the Papas/Wendy & Bonnie harmonies and inspiration from Great Society-style 60s West Coast psychedelia—not just in the sound but in the way this five-minute song ebbs and flows and twists and turns and spins, too. (If you’ve got the capabilty to play this while projecting a liquid light show on your bedroom wall, it’d probably be extremely rewarding.) “Luck Of The Draw” is part of Leland‘s coming self-titled full-length on Rubia, produced by Marc Doten with string arrangements from frequent L.A. RECORD featuree Steve Gregoropoulos
If it’s possible to create the musical equivalent of a literary masterpiece, or one deserving of this sort of high minded consideration, singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Leland Ettinger has fashioned one beautifully on her latest album whose title is also the name of her band, Leland and the Silver Wells. Thoughtfully and gorgeously blending an array of influences ranging from pop, rock and folk to classical music, she weaves a narrative worthy of her legendary idol Joan Didion.
She pays direct homage to the famed novelist and essayist in two clever ways: first, with the name Silver Wells, a fictional Nevada town in Didion’s classic 1970 novel “Play It As It Lays” – which, hardly coincidentally, is the echoing haunting final track (or dare we say, chapter) on the album, a sprawling instrumental full of spurs, dusty roads, banjo licks (by Leland herself) and edgy, percussive strings. That’s the journey’s end, but it’s the getting there that makes Leland's passage so inviting and compelling.
Her first album in 11 years, it’s a lengthy, emotional trip (both narrative wise and production wise) that began with her trying to write songs after the birth of her daughter. With all the jumbled emotions connected to that life changing event and the responsibilities of motherhood taking precedence, she thought she might never be able to complete another song. But fragments caught on an iPhone sometimes add up to magic, and when she put a few together and finished a few songs, she called her producer Mark Doten and took a plunge that her longtime fans – and all the new ones she is sure to gain – will be delighted that she did.
Leland’s beautiful vocal tones, rendered in both gossamer sweetness and rock edginess helps convey the lonely longing feeling of the album’s protagonist as she journeys through a never-ending road of heavy obstacles and rich triumphs. The lyrics flow like rich poetry, depicting ventures through valleys and swamps, dark alleys, across oceans, into forests and atop mountains seeking meaning and redemption.
The JW VIbe
Taken from the third album by Leland Ettinger, ‘Luck of the draw‘ shows off her musical roots, inspired in equal measure by Joni and the Floyd. Which, it transpires, means a CSN ‘Wooden Ships‘ type sound that has the rich Laurel Canyon vocals melded into tempo changes and solid rock riffing. Leland Ettinger has spoken of the concept nature of the album saying “I wanted to make a true album that feels like an emotional journey and a singular entity, even though everybody tells me that people don’t perceive music this way anymore. I think that there are still people who want the traditional emotional journey of an album. It’s like a novel, and the songs are the chapters that inform each other and give depth to one another.” We think she’s right.