An engaging and upbeat lockdown album ranging from folk to gospel to blues.
Many folk found that being under lockdown allowed time to develop, be it a new hobby or tackling those classic books that you had always intended to read. Langhorne Slim, hunkered down in East Nashville and newly sober after kicking an addiction to pills prescribed for his ongoing anxiety and depression, was in a bit of a rut initially, his song writing muse hard to find. A friend suggested that Langhorne attempt a strict discipline of writing a song a day and, to Langhorne’s surprise, it worked.
Indeed it worked, to the extent that his new album consists of 22 songs and, somewhat surprisingly, the songs are quite vibrant, at times joyously rollicking. Slim delves into old time folk and skiffle and bar room sing-along’s and at times, the album has that loose limbed thrown together sound which characterised ‘The Basement Tapes’ and, with most of the songs clocking in at around two minutes, it never outstays its welcome. Some of the songs allude to his ongoing issues with his mental health as on the twang fuelled ‘Panic Attack’ while the opening number, ‘Mighty Soul’, recalls the tornado which swept through Nashville and goes on to address the following plague. Fuelled by squalls of distorted guitar the song is ultimately optimistic as Slim reckons we can get together to repair the damage through the spirit of the mighty soul. On ‘Lonesome Times’, he offers a delightful waltz like song which at times in its lyrics recalls the silly optimism of Monty Python’s ‘Always Look On The Bright Side’.
There is a great deal of variety on display. ‘Dreams’ has a slight Celtic lilt, ‘House On Fire’ is a 12 bar blues done in skiffle fashion with Garth Hudson like organ parping away and ‘Something Higher’ is a wonderful Appalachian influenced gospel number. Central to the album are Slim’s memories of growing up in the Strawberry Mansion neighbourhood of Philadelphia and he sets the scene with a fine instrumental reminiscent of Jack Nietzsche’s soundtrack to ‘One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest’ before singing ‘The Mansion’. It’s the heftiest number on the album, a slow rumble of memories reminiscent of Neil Young’s starker moments and it is quite glorious. Slim stretches out the album at the end, adding a demo song and three “bonus” tracks. Whatever the reason for that is, they are all up to the standard set and together the whole makes for a wonderful listen.