Exactly as advertised, for better or worse
Bruce Willis. Eddie Murphy. Joe Pesci. Scarlett Johansson. Zooey Deschanel. John Travolta, even before his involvement with two of the biggest soundtracks of all time. All of these are actors who branched into music with varying degrees of quality, success and seriousness. Leslie Jordan, the diminutive, flamboyant character actor who won an Emmy for trading catty insults with Megan Mullaly on Will and Grace, joins this bizarre pantheon by leveraging the sudden viral fame of his Instagram quarantine diaries into a gospel record stacked with guests. As expected of the larger-than-life character that Jordan plays on TV and appears to be in real life, Company’s Comin’ is not a typical take on these classic hymns. Though it’s well-performed and Jordan does a decent job stepping up to the mic, the attempts to emulate the atmosphere posed by the album art and title seem forced and underdone thanks to Jordan’s odd ad-libs and too many brief snippets.
Jordan is obviously not a perfect singer, yet he handles himself perfectly fine by sticking to a doable range and leaning on his natural Southern twang. Though there are a couple of guests who barrel him over, especially Danny Myrick and his deep multi-tracking on “In All Things” and TJ Osborne’s impeccable poise on “In the Sweet By and By,” he’s got solid chemistry with Katie Pruitt on the final third of “This Little Light of Mine” and Eddie Vedder of all people on “The One Who Hideth Me.”
The instrumentation is pretty and bright, with highlights including the banjo solo against the gorgeous piano of “In the Sweet By and By,” the rapid-fire pace and constant energy of “Working On A Building” and the horns blaring along with Chris and Morgane Stapleton over the penultimate song “Farther Along.” There’s enough variety between the slower and faster tunes and the guests, and it doesn’t overdo the choirs or crescendos to the point of exhaustion, which is why the grand finale of “Farther Along” works as well as it does.
It is almost a guarantee that Jordan would be outshone by his guests, and he makes this clear by regularly stepping down and introducing his guests when their verse starts. This on its own is fine and kind of cool, as if Jordan is a preacher introducing the talented members of his church choir. Furthermore, it’s not akin to DJ Khaled, where he simply hypes up his guests and has little presence on his own record aside from being the ringleader who brought all this together; Jordan is pulling his own weight. However, the problem comes in when Jordan and his guests talk in the middle of the recording booth. While it’s endearing to him fanboy over Dolly Parton on “Where The Soul Never Dies,” the audio quality is jarringly different, and it would have worked better at the beginning or end of the song rather than right before the banjo solo.
His interjection of “that was sweet” at the end of “This Little Light of Mine” or the laughing and jokes on the outro of “When The Roll Is Called Up Yonder” is fine in comparison to his solemn, jarring interjections on the second verse of “In the Sweet By and By” or the constant chattering and ad-libs plastered across “Workin On A Building.” Hearing Jordan praises the banjo-playing is nice once, not multiple times. Again, Jordan seems like a social guy who lights up a room, yet this was not the best representation of that talent.
This talking and conversation are meant to replicate the cover and title of Company’s Comin’ in depicting a Sunday night of pleasant dinner talk and singing along to classic hymns. However, this illusion is slightly shattered by the rather glossy production, which isn’t unnecessarily clean but is still a slight deterrence to a homespun mood, and the fact that a third of the record is brief, half-a-minute skits. While it’s kind of cute to hear Jordan socialize with his session musicians on “meet cute….,” it just enters the conversation as if in media res to the conversation with no real rhyme or reason. The other skits are actual instrumentals that are too faint and aren’t given enough time to have any impact, which is a shame because the snippet of them singing “When the World” out of key and sync was charming. If these were supposed to work, they needed to be longer, or the rest of the element’s production needed to match better. On the one hand, it’s what Company’s Comin’ promised and is expected of a force-of-personality like Leslie Jordan. On the other hand, that doesn’t make for a completely enjoyable listen.