It wasn’t too long ago that Leroy Brownstone spent most of his time at the downtown Aberdeen bus station. That’s where he waited for rides to play with his band in Olympia and to make a connection to get back home to Westport, where his stepfather Kory Engvall still lives.
At just 15, Brownstone was also recording the first album for his band Soylint Green. Brian Smith, owner of Oceanside Recording Studio along the Wishkah River and current member of the local band Clint & the Eastwoods, also produced, recorded and mixed the first Soylint Green album.
Soylint Green is long gone but Brownstone, whose given name is Leon Virgil Bowers and now goes by the stage name Leroy Virgil, is still in the business. Although he has a house in northern California, he and his new band, Hellbound Glory, are often on the road.
“I never wanted to be a rock star, that never sounded cool to me,” Virgil said. “I’m not sure if that was the Kurt Cobain influence. The only way I can say it is I wanted to be a folk hero. a legend, something memorable like that.”
On May 6, Virgil returns to downtown Aberdeen to the Boomtown Records store stage for a 6 p.m. performance celebrating the release of an LP with a special song for where he considers his hometown.
Now with Hellbound Glory, their sound often likened to that of a young Waylon Jennings, Virgil put together a song in honor of those bus station days entitled “Streets of Aberdeen.” Just one of five songs on their newest LP titled “LV,” all of them were recorded at Oceanside Recording Studio.
“He’d get out of school, because our recording schedule was centered around the bus stop, because he wasn’t old enough to drive,” Smith said. ” … One day last November he walked through the door on his way back to the airport from visiting his stepdad at Brady’s. He pulled back the curtain and checked the place out. Later on he called me up and said he wanted to record an album there.”
Oceanside Recording Studio hadn’t been used in more than six years. Smith sold the digital equipment so the entire LP was recorded in analog on two-inch tape.
Ryan Short, a documentary filmmaker with Hoquiam ties, filmed the recording process for “Streets of Aberdeen.” Although the LP isn’t out until May 13, Country Music Television channel is releasing Short’s music video next Tuesday, May 6. In honor of this, Virgil will be playing at Boomtown Records in downtown Aberdeen.
Short and Virgil both played in bands in the area and are still good friends. Virgil called him up one day and asked if Short could record a special project for the new album. While visiting his parents, Fred and Kathy, Short set aside time to spend a few hours in the studio with Smith and Virgil.
“I will say that he is one of the only people I would work for for free and that’s because I want people to hear his music,” Short said. “I’ve told him that. He’s on the short list of people that if he needs help, I’ll drop everything and help out. He’s a good guy.”
Revisiting the streets
Virgil said this project has been a long time coming.
“I’ve been wanting to write something that was about Aberdeen and my roots,” he said. “It’s something to be proud of. I feel lucky to have grown up here. How many people who grew up in a town so small that they walked the same streets as Kurt Cobain and the Melvins. I wanted to pay tribute to that.”
Seattle rap artist Macklemore’s song “American,” with a line making fun of Aberdeen, inspired Virgil to write his own song about the town he grew up in.
Virgil said he always writes songs in his head and rarely puts it down on paper. While recording the LP, he had more than 40 songs he was working on but narrowed it down to just five.
After this LP release, another album which has already been recorded is set to be released this summer.
“I love what I do and being busy, so I’m always working on something new,” he said. “Next week, it’ll just be great to visit again.”