Updated: May 18
By Scott Roos
For Johnny Sinclair and Leslie Stanwyck, 2020 was a busy year. They saw the launching of their own personal imprint Honeytunes, the reissue of a few classic Universal Honey records, a new Universal Honey EP and a Christmas album. After over 30 years in the business together, Stanwyck and Sinclair show no signs of stopping which makes this Saskatoon based songwriting tandem the true definition of a “power couple”.
For all intents and purposes, 2021 looks to be no different with the two having recently released their sophomore full length outing from their country/roots project Tucker Lane. It’s entitled Random Fireworks On A Beach Obscured By Trees. Tucker Lane was the result of Stanwyck and Sinclair’s gigging around Saskatoon playing country music covers as a duo as well as a sometimes trio with guitarist Brent Carlin. As the project evolved, veteran drummer Warren Medernach was added into the mix.
“ In our cover band we started playing some Lucinda Williams and some Steve earle… Miranda Lambert. So people said ‘hey this is good' so we said 'hey let’s try it. This is something that we could do. Let’s make our version of a country record’,” said Sinclair in a recent interview with NSMZ.
The result of this initial foray into country music was their debut West of Minnesota, North of North Dakota. Five years later and the group has had the chance to refine their sound. On a very basic surface level, Tucker Lane is a chicken fried classic rock take on “Back on the Chain Gang” era Pretenders. Stanwyck’s voice has a clear Chrissy Hynde tone.
“I’m glad I’m being compared to someone that I like,” chuckled Stanwyck, “(The Music is) kind of rock n roll and the flavour of it with the female vocalist might conjure up Pretenders.”
“(My country tone) just comes naturally depending on the feel of the track. I just end up channeling Patsy Cline or Mick Jagger when he does his country songs like 'Far Away Eyes',” continued Stanwyck.
“The Stones and the Beatles - they did their version of American Country. We are more deep into Steve Earle and Lucinda Williams and Tom Petty and stuff like that. And the 60’s and 70’s. You got your Fleetwood Mac and your Eagles and the Byrds and stuff like that. Buffalo Springfield. That’s sort of where we intersect into the country world. Through the 90’s with Uncle Tupelo, Wilco and the Jayhawks. That would kind of be our comfort zone which would be Americana but we can’t escape ourselves. The pop always follows us so maybe you could say we’re Americana/Roots/Pop or something like that?” quipped Sinclair.
At the heart of things, this more classic rock dependence in their sound suits Tucker Lane the best. Songs like “Paper Wings” and “Ghosts” with their acoustic imbibed, easy going texture, allow the band to establish a mellow groove. Tucker Lane are not exactly reinventing the wheel with this approach but, at the same time, if it’s only rock n’ roll why can’t we like it? It's this time honoured, "meat and potatoes" approach that serves the band well.
“We love to jam out the arrangement to the songs with the band. That’s something that’s a
throwback to our earlier years with Universal Honey. We have also been writing with members of the band as opposed to just Johnny and I writing. It’s a very free flowing process. The big difference is Brent’s guitar playing which definitely has a southern blues country element to it at times. At other times, he sounds like James Honeyman-Scott. With Tucker Lane we also leave the door open for more traditional instruments like pedal steel, mandolin and violin,” explained Stanwyck when describing the differences in approach between Universal Honey and Tucker Lane.
At the end of the day, Tucker Lane gives off an aura of a seasoned and experienced band that no doubt would be enjoyable live. They are certain to put on a highly entertaining show and we at NSMZ are hopeful that fans will be able to see them in a local venue sooner as opposed to later as we enter 2021.
*Tucker Lane photo courtesy of Warren Rutherford