Stephen Ray Leslie & The Crooked Mile
After 10 years of fronting Bellingham alt-country act Chuckanut Drive, singer/songwriter Stephen Ray Leslie has decided to go down a new road as a solo artist.
Hoping that the change will allow him to play more music rather than less, Leslie looks forward to the flexibility of performing on his own and with his realigned group, The Crooked Mile.
Stephen Ray Leslie & The Crooked Mile will lay down the same southern-influenced sounds that define Chuckanut Drive’s sound with a stronger focus on the gritty, broken-hearted ballads Leslie has been exploring in his more recent work:
“My favorite tracks are the ballads. There is one track in particular, “Juanita,” that could have been written by Townes Van Zandt,” writes Joe Hartlaub at www.music-reviewer.com. “‘Worn Out Shoes’ is in a similar vein, though it’s about being down, but not out. There’s a line I’ve got to share with you: ‘the tear that reaches heaven first/ might be sanctified and returned to earth.’ I love that line, more than I’ve liked any lyric for a long, long time.”
Leslie has assembled somewhat of a northwest alt-country supergroup in The Crooked Mile. The new group retains Chuckanut guitarist Stell Newsome and bass player Ryan Roullard, while pedal steel player Steve Norman, a Louisiana native, and drummer Tom Forster, who has previously recorded with Chuckanut Drive, lend their talents to the band’s sound.
Over the years, Leslie’s engaging songwriting and stage presence have allowed him to share the stage with some of the alt-country movement’s more interesting characters such as Bobby Bare Jr., Fred Eaglesmith, Jason Isbell (Drive-by Truckers), Dave Gonzalez (Hacienda Brothers), The Sadies, Split Lip Rayfield, The Meat Purveyors, Richmond Fontaine, Jonathan Byrd, I Can Lick Any Sonofabitch In The House and many more.
Stephen Ray Leslie & the Crooked Mile debuts the new lineup with three northwest performances in March: Friday, March 12 at Conor Byrne in Seattle, Saturday, March 13 at the Green Frog Café Acoustic Tavern in Bellingham and Saturday March 27 at the Birds on a Wire Festival in Pullman, WA.
Chuckanut Drive was an alt country band from Bellingham, Washington spearheaded by Texas born singer/songwriter Stephen Ray Leslie. The band has released 3 full-length albums in the past five years and sold copies in over 10 countries.
Over the years, the cast of characters in this raucous alt county collective has changed several times, but anchored by Leslie’s songwriting and raw emotive voice one thing remains the same, great songs that bypass pretension and go straight for the gut.
The release of their 2006 album “The Crooked Mile Home” garnered the band national attention when it reached 13 on the Freeform American Roots Chart in July of 2007 and made it onto several DJ’s end-of-the-year lists. This ambitious country/rock concept album chronicles the wanderlust adventures of a young man through the back roads of Middle America. Leslie’s penchant for storytellin’ songs is well displayed on this album.
The band’s current album “Fidelity Grange” has recently been released to much applause. It quickly made the top 30 on the Roots Music Report and also reached 13 (tied with John Hiatt) on the Freeform American Roots Chart. “Fidelity Grange” was also picked by influential DJ, Don Slack, as one of his top 12 favorite new album to be added to the Swinging Doors program on Seattle’s KEXP.
Chuckanut drive is also known for its feverish live performances. “Chuckanut Drive is a great band to see live. The band members command their instruments and the energy of a room with aplomb, wrangling the crowd from a group of disparate strangers into a dysfunctional family reunion” - Seattle Sound Magazine. The band’s skill on the stage has allowed them the honor of playing with some of their favorite contemporary artists including: Bobby Bare Jr., Fred Eaglesmith, Jason Isbell, The Sadies, Split Lip Rayfield, The Meat Purveyors, Richmond Fontaine, and Jonathan Byrd.