Once every few years a song appears that sounds like it’s always been here, something that has to be heard immediately. That’s Leeann Atherton’s “Smack Dab in a Miracle.” It rises and falls and fills in all the missing pieces like an answer to life. Atherton’s mighty voice is powered by that secret source of emotion, the one which cannot be questioned. And that’s just the first track on Atherton’s new album. Followed by a whole other side of the singer, “Joy” is a soaring ode to everything that turns up the fire and keeps things burning. It feels like it comes from several different styles, which are melted down into one. In fact, all twelve songs paint a portrait of someone who’s been chasing the sound long enough to know it’s the journey and not the destination that supplies the kicks, and eternity can often be found in the questions that never really need to be answered. For now, grace and giving is where this music lives, from top to bottom. And with producer-guitarist Mac McNabb so steadily guiding the players, these are songs that feel like they’re built out of stone, ones that were always hiding here until Leeann Atherton came along to free them with her strong voice and sure heart. Collections like this have a way of finding their way out of a dark corner and walking right onto the stage to grab the spotlight and demand to be heard. As a special sign-off, Atherton’s a capella “Motherless Children’s Club,” sung spontaneously at her mother’s memorial, reminds us all where we came from, and where we’re going. Right on time. Bill Bentley- Americana Highways
Leeann Atherton’s new album, Fallen Angel reflects the singular talent of a woman who easily navigates between a variety of genres and manages to avoid being typecast in any one in particular. She shifts styles as easily as she navigated her musical journey, one that led her from Charleston to Nashville, and eventually to Austin, the place she currently calls home. Whether it’s the effusive energy of opening track “Smack Dab in a Miracle,” the compelling conviction of “Fallen Angel,” or the celebratory stance of “Cleaning House,” Atherton’s unceasing ability to transcend a remarkable range of emotion and expression makes her a singular presence, regardless of setting or circumstance. The blues and gospel filtered through “Lift Me Up” is as mesmerizing as it is masterful, just as the soul and sass that powers “Champagne and Pills” underscores her ability to combine her drive with defiance. Likewise, “Cheater’s Game” and “Little White Lies” spare no empathy for those that cross the transom from trust to betrayal.
Consequently, Fallen Angel boosts Atherton to a new plateau, one that is, in fact, the natural result of her determination to forge an identity that’s boundless in possibilities. Lee Zimmerman- Goldmine
Janis Joplin – Earth mother oracle. South Austin’s harvested a few such natural wonders over the past 50 or so. Leeann Atherton channels all of them on Fallen Angel. Intro “Smack Dab in a Miracle” begins in a flush rock groove, and quickly proves entrée to “Joy,” a syncopated crier straight off the Monterey Pops stage sandwiched between Big Brother & the Holding Co., the Mamas & the Papas, and Hugh Masekela. Giddy from said flashback, Fallen Angel flies straight into the electro title track, replete with an Eighties drum-machine swirl, only that’s no Roland TR-808, but rather the late, great Barry “Frosty” Smith adding a human touch to a true curve ball. It might strike postmodern hippies as antithetical, but it works like indica. The whole of the disc strikes thusly: buzzing, unpredictable, self-possessed, while coalescing into a lively and varied sequence of songs, like a playlist of similar artists readymade for motivational catharsis. Cutting the rug are Fifties Kansas City (“Brand New Way Cool”), Southern voodoo-blues (“Lift Me Up”), and some Saturday night sinning (“Champagne & Pills”), whose brassy, good-time delivery drips most authentic. No song misses except “Cheater’s Game,” which syncs with “Little White Lies” in a combo that arcs the album from newfound ardor to bitter disillusionment as executed with a classic R&B bump-n-grind found also on “Cleaning House.” Instead of Joplin and Cass Elliot, Atherton throws down some Mavis Staples and Etta James. Raoul Hernandez – Austin Chronicle
Working with producer Mac McNabb, who also leads the way on guitar, longtime Austin singer-songwriter Atherton serves up a dozen original songs that showcase her organic balance of soul, folk, blues and other styles. The album is notable in part for the presence on three tracks of renowned drummer Barry “Frosty” Smith, in what likely was one of his last sessions before his death in April 2017. The spiritual closing track, “Motherless Children’s Club,” was recorded live at the memorial service for Atherton’s mother. Here’s a recent live version of the album track “Straight From the Heart”: https://youtu.be/ka1AXIqUmPQ Peter Blackstock – American Statesman