Bay Area-bred singer/songwriter Logan Ledger sets most of his songs in lightless or shadowy spaces: the bottom of the ocean, the abandoned cells of Alcatraz, dreamless bedrooms, desolate streets in the dead of night. Produced by 13-time Grammy winner T Bone Burnett, the Nashville-based artist’s self-titled debut matches his moody noir lyricism with a darkly toned take on country music, a sound that’s stylistically wayward yet deeply grounded in classic songmanship.
With Burnett playing guitar on more than half the tracks, the album finds Ledger backed by guitarist/pedal steel player Russell Pahl, guitarist Marc Ribot (Tom Waits, Elvis Costello), drummer Jay Bellerose (Willie Nelson, Jackson Browne), and bassist Dennis Crouch (Loretta Lynn, Dolly Parton), threading in elements of acid rock and surf music and baroque ’60s pop to forge a decidedly Californian sound. But as the sonic antithesis of the sunshiney folk that Jimi Hendrix called “Western sky music,” the album is nearly subterranean in its mystique, indelibly informed by what Ledger refers to as “that gloomy, nocturnal, San Francisco/Ocean Beach vibe.”
Ledger’s self-guided musical education began back in the Bay Area, where he first felt compelled to sing after his grandmother introduced him to the music of Roy Orbison. Taking up guitar at age 12, he next began writing songs of his own, along with amassing a huge collection of Smithsonian Folkways CDs. Later, while attending Columbia University, Ledger hosted a bluegrass show on the campus radio station and played in a number of bluegrass bands, then moved to Nashville on a whim not long after graduation. Although his early days in the city were mostly spent working in bars and playing in cover bands, a spontaneously recorded demo of Ledger’s landed in the hands of Dennis Crouch, who then passed it on to Burnett. In summer 2016, the legendary producer invited Ledger out to L.A., and the two soon started working on Ledger’s debut.
Throughout the album, Ledger and Burnett’s immediate chemistry extends to a charmed communion between all the featured musicians. “I love how everyone’s constantly improvising, but without ever getting in anybody else’s way,” Ledger points out. That uninterrupted and possibly transcendent flow is also the desired takeaway for listeners of his debut. “I’d love for people to get into a meditative space when they hear the record, to sit with the songs and really take their time with them,” Ledger says. “I think there’s a value in letting things happen at a much slower pace, especially in our current culture of instant gratification. It’s really not even a conscious decision for me—it’s just how I feel and how I like to do things, so I’m just going to keep going with it.”