Leshay Simmons, aka Yahsel is the perfect type of tortured soul – an elegant, afflicted, yet hopeful singer and songwriting poet. His raw melodramatic song-writing and guitar playing, are top-notch and one-of-a-kind, in an over-produced, bombastic music scene. He is the counter-culture of both the underground and mainstream music scenes. His album “Last One I Promise”, will survive through the ages and be recognized as an acoustic-driven, indie-rock diary. For here, Yahsel is chronicling his life experiences, struggles and aspirations, in a rather trying existence.
After years of physical and mental health issues, the prime reason he decided to finally release his music, was due to his latest health scare. During September, Yahsel contracted Covid-19 which caused him acute liver failure. He spent 8 days in the intensive care unit, while doctors and nurses stated that there was a good chance he would need a transplant or die very soon.
It finally hit Yahsel that he might never see his family again – his niece grow up, his older sister finally using her degree to chase her dreams, his little sister break out of her shell, or his brother finally get released from prison. Of course, what afflicted him most was knowing the pain his mother would go through after taking care of him his entire life.
Music had always been his comfort and escape from life’s harsh realities, and it has been this way since his parents gave him a guitar at the age of 9. Yahsel has since learned to play several instruments and recorded many rough demos, so he decided to leave his family his last will and testament with the album “Last One I Promise”. But now it’s become more than that.
“I learned my music can help people, the past 3 months have been a rollercoaster to say the least, but I know what I want to do right now,” states Yahsel. “For as long as I can I want to make music that people enjoy and relate too. Hopefully I can do it for a long time, because that’s what I finally realized after 26 years is what makes me happy.” The album is also dedicated to Yahsel’s father. The release date October 12th, was the 20th anniversary of his dad’s death.
“Last One I Promise” is full of some of the most haunting and beautiful songs you’ll ever hear, but it’ll take a toll on your mood by the end of it, as Yahsel takes you on a journey through the ups and downs of his existence. Yahsel’s sound is at its most intimate and vulnerable across the 22 tracks. It’s mostly just Yahsel and his guitar which gives the album this bare stripped down sound and makes this record feel as singular as it does.
The album starts off with “Whispers” – a pulsing guitar, resonant vocal melody, and the ever present strain in Yahsel’s voice. This track sets the tone for the rest of the album: it’s bleak and beautiful. It’s full of lyrics that are smart, sad, and full of self-awareness. As you run through the blunt honesty of “Walking Dead”, “Break Away” and “Come With Me”, you’re immediately drawn into Yahsel’s world.
This album makes you feel something that few other album are able to. You feel like you’re struggling and dealing with what Yahsel is singing about alongside him, or even as him. It’s painfully honest, uncomfortably intimate and raw. Even as you move through similar, repeating acoustic guitar soundscapes on “A Sad Man”, “Sleep” and “Count Me Down”, its Yahsel’s captivating storytelling and vocal nuances that keep you hooked.
Songs like “Here For Me”, “Awful Lives” and “Lately” continue to showcase what an absolute natural talent Yahsel is, and how he seems to always be able to find the perfect melody to accompany everything he writes. All it takes is one line to make a connection to Yahsel’s music. Very clear lyrical imagery make it easy to grasp or figure out what the song is about. Through the remaining 12 songs, there are many standouts which will enchant you.
Among these “Holding On”, “Living Life”, “Move On”, “Time”, and of course the title track “Last One I Promise”. The album is very much a record that rewards repeated listening. The songs have hooks, but their real captivating gems are in Yahsel’s lyrics. A close listen to his vocals reveal that his command of both empathy and apathy is admirable.
The album bears the tones of a young man searching for his way in world that has been cruel to him, and allowing others to share the signposts he has encountered during his journey. Alternately somber and sublime, sparse yet wistful, the songs keep a cohesive and powerful stance despite the spare settings. When you’ve finished listening to this album, don’t forget to check out Yahsel’s latest single, entitled “Green”. It may be his best yet!