Radio is a sound salvation. Especially for Andrew Leahey, it seems. Decades after growing up on a diet of heartland FM rockers like Tom Petty, Bruce Springsteen, John Mellencamp and Bob Seger — and six years after surviving a brain tumour — the Nashville singer-songwriter lovingly channels his heroes on his note-perfect nostalgic sophomore album Airwaves. Deliberately eschewing contemporary sonics or songcraft for the classic sound and approach of the ’80s, Leahey hits the mark so accurately and reverently that someone hearing this out of the blue could easily mistake some of these cuts for leftovers or rarities from Petty’s catalogue. It helps that the Virginia native’s southern drawl is often a dead ringer for the Heartbreakers leader. And it certainly doesn’t hurt that Leahey knows his way around a jangly hook, has a strong sense of melody and can pen a catchy chorus about living in flyover country, working for a living and falling for a woman who has lips like sugar. But mostly, it’s because he has no qualms about wearing his love for the music of his forebears on his sleeve. Ultimately, that’s what makes Airwaves the sort of album that should only be played while you’re cruising down the highway with the top down. Assuming you have some way to play it, of course — since ironically, you’d never hear anything this new on the taxidermy exhibit that passes for FM radio these days.
STANDOUTS: Queen and King of Smaller Things, Lips LikeSugar, Workin’ Ain’t Workin’.