© Kirk Albrecht
I would not want to be Thomas Leeb's guitar, but I like having ears to hear what he does with it. On his latest amalgam of pops, slaps, bends, thwacks, plucks, and strums, Leeb once again pushes our aural boundaries with hard-driving melodies using -- literally -- the entire guitar. "Desert Pirate" is a firestorm of sound, from the opening "Grooveyard" (where surely even the most decayed are moving), to the gentler tribute piece "Ladzepko" (for his musical inspiration). Leeb's ability to create accessible melody reminds me of Billy McLaughlin's best work: you have a hard time imagining how he can be doing so much yet still create true songs. The title track, "Desert Pirate," begins sounding like a mouse is trying to get into his soundhole; it then builds into a percussive crescendo before the traditional sound of a guitar appears, sounding not too traditional, but reminding us of the varied palette of sounds six steel strings can deliver. "Jebuda" mixes some well-placed harmonics with slightly more "traditional" picking in a funky groove. Harmonics feature again on the lovely "Nai Nai," with the three notes of the melody ringing bell-like over open strings. Leeb delivers an infectious cover of Bob Marley's "No Woman No Cry," mixing slaps with a harmonically-rich melody over a driving bass line. He shows some jazz chops on "Oachkatzlschwoaf" (no, that's not a typo, it's a German word) which feels like a ride on the Autobahn with the top down in June. Leeb even covers the Swedish pop songstress Bjork's "Isobel" (in a far more endearing form to this listener's ears), giving his own percussive, driving sound, making the most of the lower registers of the guitar. This is a solid record. For anyone wanting new acoustic sounds on the guitar, Thomas Leeb delivers.