Lenny Lashley's Gang of One - All Are Welcome (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Lenny Lashley's Gang of One

All Are Welcome (2019)

Pirates Press Records

I’m pretty burned out on folk punk. I very rarely find myself listening to it anymore. That’s why it’s even more surprising how much I love All Are Welcome. Actually, I think it’s a testament to how damn good this is. Folk punk and alt country have too often become the place where old punk frontmen go to die. Some are better at it than others, but it usually just ends up being basic punk songs played on acoustic instruments. That simplicity rarely works without speed and bombast. Lenny Lashley’s Gang of One has made an album that is as nuanced as it is anthemic. It makes me wonder if this is what the Darkbuster frontman and Street Dogs guitarist was truly meant to do. Maybe his mother was right, and he’s been wasting his time with all that silly punk stuff.

Opener “Truth and Blood” is a standout on album full of standouts. The title track comes next. It’s obviously a rebuke to 45, but it somehow manages not to be overly political. Lashley seems to have a real knack for writing songs from the human perspective. It reminds me a lot of last year’s excellent Street Dogs album Stand for Something or Die for Nothing. I wonder if I underestimated how much influence Lashley had on that record’s songwriting. “Live Like Lions” is the best song on All Are Welcome. (I defy you to tell me otherwise.) “Lonesome” is a country weeper with a powerful emotional wallop. Side one ends with a sax driven hard rock song named after a girl (“Betty’s”).

Side two starts with a whimsical sax enhanced love song named after a different girl (“Judy”). “Tomorrow Never Comes” picks the tempo back up. “Double Miner” is an old timey, catchy as hell working man’s anthem. “Revolution” is my least favorite song on All Are Welcome. That may or may not be because of my hatred for all things soccer. Closer “Weakness” is somber but encouraging. Some of the songs on All Are Welcome will make you think about stuff. Other songs will make you feel stuff. You’ll want to sing along with both types.

The songs actually cover a fair amount of musical ground. There’s classic country with sad sounding steel guitar. There’s fist pumping, riff heavy rock and roll that borders on punk. There are subtle flourishes of organ and other instruments that make for a full, fat sound. This alleged “Gang of One’ involves quite a few other talented musicians making important contributions. There’s definitely the influence of the great ‘70s singer-songwriters. I don’t want to give LL a big head, but the songwriting is just so good. Lenny Lashley’s Gang of One has struck gold with All Are Welcome. It’s the album we really needed in 2019.