June 2019 VOLUME XLIIII, NUMBER 12
Lonesome Highway Music
Native Texan Bianca DeLeon writes about what she knows, her life growing up in the Texas-Mexico borderland. She’s lived through a lot, and it shows in her music.
Recorded at John Inmon’s studio and produced by Inmon, Dangerous Endeavor is a mixture of DeLeon’s original tunes and a handful of carefully picked covers.
The first thing that struck me about this album is DeLeon’s voice. She’s gritty and gutsy with her delivery of the lyrics.
A dark story, “Thorns of a Different Rose,” written by Will Dudley, sets the mood for what is to come on this album.
Reflective and relatable, “Has it Really Come to This,” a DeLeon original, is the ultimate break-up song. What stands out to me on this track is the sweet violin refrains from Javier Chaparro.
How different things would be, “If You Just Had a Mirror,” because you’d never do what you do.
A standout song for me, “Hollow Victory,” tells such a powerful story:
“It’s a hollow victory/Down the hallway to hell/One you have to walk on your own/It’s an empty hallway/Built on pain and misery…”
With a whiskey-soaked, sultry vocal, DeLeon makes me feel every word she sings.
“That vintage ’67 Cadillac” is a Rockabilly tune that lightens the mood. She brings a bit of naughtiness into play when DeLeon suggests, “Let’s Put the Dirty Back In Dancin’.”
Hank Williams Sr. made “(I Heard That) Lonesome Whistle” into a hit, but DeLeon puts her own spin on it.
A song that grabbed my attention with the lyrics was “Sad Corners of Her Eyes.” DeLeon depicts situations when there is a smile, but the sad corners of the eyes give it away:
“An old photograph of Marilyn Monroe/With JFK and Jackie too/She looked so fragile/Holding his arm/Sad corners of her eyes/Gave her away…”
Something we can all relate to, “I’m Waiting for a Miracle” screams for help for our darkening planet; waiting for someone somewhere to turn the lights on. A personal friend and confidant to Townes Van Zandt, DeLeon’s version of “White Freightliner” gave me chills. It was as if she had a deep insight into the author of the lyrics, which she did.
The album concludes with “Dangerous Endeavor.” Written in Van Zandt’s storytelling style, this song could be a movie.
Everything about DeLeon’s Dangerous Endeavor from the songwriting to the vocals, and the music, is excellent! She embodies Texas storytelling in every lyric. — By Jan Sikes, Buddy Magazine
In her very personal songs, BIANCA DE LEON sings about the love, loss, personal experiences and experiences on the border between Texas and Mexico, not afraid to express her own sometimes uncomfortable opinion.
The Austin-based singer / songwriter, who sang for her latest album Dangerous Endeavor in addition to eight own compositions and three cover versions (Townes Van Zandt, Will Dudley and Hank Williams), has received a lot of encouragement – from fans, critics and colleagues including memorable Texas songwriter icon Guy Clark, who spot-lighted her talents with “A voice from Texas that does it right”.
The Texan, titled “Queen Of The Border Ballad,” does not waste much time with cumbersome preambles on her fifth long player, but comes straight to the point – her songs are real jewels, wonderfully brittle, sometimes quite dark, but always very touching and authentic.
Another Americana Country / Texas Country album by an artist who deserves to reach the widest possible audience.
Bianca De Leon – Dangerous Endeavor (Lonesome Highway Music)
South Texas native Bianca De Leon is an Austin, TX-based singer/songwriter and author dubbed “Queen of the border ballad” by Nova Lomax and “A voice from Texas that does it right” by Guy Clark. Outside of Texas, she’s better known in Europe where she’s been touring since 2001 while her albums have also charted very well there.
She has an intriguing, sometimes sultry voice and an accomplished guitarist, utilizing both finger picking and flat picking. Given the high news visibility of immigration and the Mexican border, it seems more than appropriate for De Leon to step into the spotlight stateside with her fifth CD. After all she’s lived on the border and witnessed far more than most. She hopped freight trains as a teenager, met the young Townes Van Zandt and lived through a decadent period in the early seventies full of car chases, drug deals and eventually the European tours.
The album is co-produced by guitarist and multi-instrumentalist John Inmon who has supported Austin artists for four decades now, most notably the late Jimmy LaFave and Eliza Gilkyson. De Leon and Inmon do almost all the heavy lifting with guests helping on select tracks. Six of the eleven have either violin or viola from Fulvio Renzi or Javier Chaparro. She renders Van Zandt’s “White Freightliner” in a minor key at a slowed tempo in a truly unique version that will surprise most listeners. She puts her own stamp on Hank Williams Sr.’s “(I Heard That) Lonesome Whistle Blow,” one that she’s lived, unlike the many others who have covered it. Her originals are rather unforgettable too. We have the Texas waltz, done sultry style in “Let’s Put the Dirty Back in Dancing,” a dash of rockabilly with “That Vintage ’67 Cadillac,” the keening ballads – “Thorns of a Different Rose,” “Has It Really Come to This” and “I’m Waiting for a Miracle.”
Look a bit deeper and perhaps the two strongest tracks are those that embody the spirit of her nickname, “Hollow Victory” and the closing title track. On those she reveals authenticity, honesty, and expressive pain. Like her mentor Van Zandt, her rawness cuts to the bone. Here’s an excerpt from “Hollow Victory “ – “Your footsteps on the backs/Of all those in your way/And the battered wrecks /Of those you left behind.”
The title track could easily be autobiographical and is rather chillingly current – “I left Mexico/And everything behind/And I ran while I still could/Headin’ for the border/With a change of my name/In the Texas Piney Woods/I settled in a town/With an ear to the ground/Where no one knows my name/Sometimes I wake in a cold, cold sweat/With a dream of them on my trail”
The darkness she sings about with its oblique references provided a chilling soundtrack to a late night drive in rainy, foggy conditions on the back roads in rural Pennsylvania for this writer. Expecting to encounter deer, images of coyotes and bandits were running through the mind instead. De Leon covers plenty of emotions and seemingly real life narratives on this disc. There’s passion, wit, and drama; just what you want to stay engaged with a talented songwriter.
— Jim Hynes
Amazon Editorial Review
“White Freightliner” just came on, and I m knocked out; I got chills. So great; your voice is amazing, cuts to the bone. I wanna tell you: wow. Bob Hardy, A Deeper Blue, The Life and Music of Townes Van Zandt
This cd runs from the darkest depths to the gentle humor of “Let’s Put the Dirty Back in Dancin'”. The title song details a mystery that took place in the Mexican desert many years previous and is kept hidden in the past with oblique references.
This cd, her 5th, is a must have for Bianca fans.
Bianca De Leon – Dangerous Endeavor
Bianca De Leon serves up lyrically potent ballads with an understated, smoldering urgency, spelling these with roadhouse-friendly up- mooded fare equally appealing. The well traveled South Texan’s churning cover of her close friend the late Townes Van Zandt’s “White Freightliner” should get attention as should “Has It Really Come to This” and “Let’s Put The Dirty Back In Dancin’.” Co-producer John Inmon is impressive as nearly a one-man session band.
— Duane Verh
BIANCA DeLEON/Dangerous Endeavor: Praised by Guy Clark, Townes Van Zandt’s sidekick and produced by a Lost Gonzo. Is this real Texas enough for you? Rocking harder than her folkie pals, this gal whose life seems to have inspired several Van Zandt tunes knows how to roll it out on her own in fine style. Now posited firmly as a next gen Austin mainstay, she’s a smoking hot freight train ready to knock you down if you don’t get out of the way. A real sizzler.
(Lonesome Highway 1001)
“Queen of the Border Ballad” è una definizione che calza a pennello a Bianca De Leon, cantante ed autrice con base ad Austin, Texas la cui voce rimane una delle più vere e genuine di quella scena tra country e folk. Personalità forte, amore sconfinato per i suoni ‘di confine’ che con il loro romanticismo e intensità ci hanno fatto sognare con storie passionali e accorate, Bianca ci ha regalato più di un gioellino nel corso di una carriera che l’ha vista spesso calcare i palchi europei. “Dangerous Endeavor” è un’ulteriore conferma della bontà della sua proposta, un disco co-prodotto con John Inmon, tra i più validi animatori della scena roots texana che ha contribuito a nobilitare grazie al suo lavoro chitarristico con i migliori nomi del Lone Star State degli ultimi quarantanni e più, che probabilmente è uno dei suoi lavori più intensi ed intriganti. Bianca De Leon affronta due cover di grande rilievo come “(I Heard That) Lonesome Whistle” di Hank Williams Sr. e “White Freightliner” di Townes Van Zandt con piglio leggero e coinvolgente, senza voler strafare ma ponendo in primo piano rispetto e grande considerazione, ma è con gli originali che coglie maggiormente nel segno. La sua è una musica senza tempo, interpretata con semplicità ma sempre con quell’energia che la rende credibile e arrangiamenti che non fanno che sottolineare la bellezza delle melodie. E allora via con il Texas waltz di “Let’s Put The Dirty Back In Dancing”, le tonalità quasi rockabilly di “That Vintage ’67 Cadillac”, terse ballate come “Thorns Of A Different Rose”, “Has It Really Come To This “ e “I’m Waiting For A Miracle” e due splendide canzoni come la title-track “Dangerous Endeavor” in cui si conferma appieno il ‘nomignolo’ di apertura e “Hollow Victory” in cui personalmente ho ritrovato, palpabile, lo spirito del grande ed indimenticato Townes Van Zandt. Disco pieno di calore e di passione che consiglio caldamente.
– – Remo Ricaldone
“Queen of the Border Ballad” is a definition that fits perfectly with Bianca De Leon, singer and author based in Austin, Texas whose voice remains one of the most true and genuine of that scene between country and folk. Strong personality, boundless love for the ‘borderline’ sounds that with their romanticism and intensity made us dream with heartfelt and passionate stories, Bianca gave us more than a jewel during a career that has often seen her treading European stages. “Dangerous Endeavor” is a further confirmation of the goodness of its proposal, a disc co-produced with John Inmon, one of the most valid animators of the Texas roots scene who contributed to ennoble thanks to his guitar work with the best names of the Lone Star Been in the last forty years and more, which is probably one of his most intense and intriguing works. Bianca De Leon faces two major coverings such as “(I Heard That) Lonesome Whistle” by Hank Williams Sr. and “White Freightliner” by Townes Van Zandt with a light and engaging look, without wanting to overdo it but putting great respect consideration, but it is with the originals that it captures the most. His is a timeless music, interpreted with simplicity but always with that energy that makes it credible and arrangements that only emphasize the beauty of the melodies. So off with the Texas waltz of “Let’s Put The Dirty Back In Dancing”, the almost rockabilly tones of “That Vintage ’67 Cadillac”, terse ballads like “Thorns Of A Different Rose”, “Has It Really Come To This” and “I’m Waiting For A Miracle” and two wonderful songs like the title-track “Dangerous Endeavor” which fully confirms the ‘nickname’ of opening and “Hollow Victory” in which I personally found, palpable, the spirit of the great and unforgettable Townes Van Zandt. Disco full of warmth and passion that I highly recommend.
– – Remo Ricaldone (google translate)
Townes Van Zandt’s “White Freightliner Blues” in a minor key makes perfect sense when performed by Bianca DeLeon, once Townes’ close confidant, now carrying on his tradition of mixing the darkness and the light in her songs of love and loss, innocence and experience, with the emphasis now firmly on experience. A world-weary cover of Hank Williams’ “I Heard That Lonesome Whistle Blow” marks the other boundary of Bianca’s territory, conveying strength and resolution along with the resignation of hard-fought experience. In between, her latest songs continue to weave the threads of the stories her followers have come to love. This is solid songwriting and a voice that gets better with age–and experience.