Leanne Binder has become the go-to girl for rebel rock acts, and for good reason. She’ll open for David Allan Coe at The Cellar on Friday.
By John Benson
In singer Leanne Binder’s mind, you can’t fake the blues, so don’t even try.
It’s that mind-set, along with “a little bit of whiskey and a whole lot of soul,” that has punctuated Binder’s two decade career of playing music around the Youngstown area and beyond. Most notably in Mahoning County of late, she’s been the go-to artist to open up for rebel acts such as The Outlaws and David Allen Coe. In fact, she’s once again being called upon to rile up the presumably already rowdy crowd as the opener for Coe’s Feb. 10 show at The Cellar.
Whereas some artists may cower at the thought of supporting such a legend, not to mention trying to sway his dedicated audience, Binder is fearless. Instead, she questions whether the shot-and-a-beer folk will be able to keep up with her.
“It’s a good fit because I’m a bluesy-ballsy rock ’n’ roll singer,” said Binder, a Canfield High School graduate who politely declined to give up her age. “When people go to see The Outlaws or David Allen Coe, they’re looking for musicians. They’re looking for real people that really play. I don’t use canned music or any of that kind of stuff. I just get on stage and throw down. I just do what I do. That’s what those kind of fans respond to. They like that old-school musician.”
For Binder, old school is being influenced by Led Zeppelin, Heart and Janis Joplin. The singer said she’s most often compared to the latter due to the “whiskey in her voice.” However, that hasn’t been the case of late as the blues vocalist used her latest CD, “Done Looking Back,” as a country-pop vehicle to shop for a label deal in Nashville. Binder said she’s returning to her blues ways with a new CD she hopes to have out this fall.
“I’m definitely driving it more into a blues kind of area because I want to go back over to Europe and do some shows,” said Binder, who a few years ago headlined the Great Rhythm and Blues Festival in England playing for more than 30,000 people. “I have a big following over there, so I’m intentionally driving it to shop overseas.”
One track she hopes to play at the upcoming Cellar gig is the swampy-blues-gospel sounding “Shades of Violet.” Also, she notes that even though her last album’s tunes were produced with a country-pop sheen, in a live setting, the material is all rock, including covers by Joplin and even Johnny Cash.
Naturally, we’re all a product of our environment. For Binder, growing up in Northeast Ohio turned her into the blues musician she is today.
“You know, we always laugh — I’m friends with the majority of musicians here in town most of my life, and we say winters are tough,” Binder said. “All we have to do is play rock ’n’ roll and drink. Anybody who knows anything about this area knows about the caliber of musicians that come out of here. Growing up when I did, I loved music. It wasn’t a like. It was a love. It breeds in the people here, and as far as moving that into the blues, you can’t fake the blues.”