We’ve long been enamored by Langhorne Slim’s compelling, gritty goodness. Hardscrabble character combined with the blood of a tent revivalist or prohibition distiller rapidly shot the deep-rooted folk singer, who stole his nickname from his Pennsylvania hometown, into the ears and hearts of folks around the country and beyond from 2005 on. Since then, Slim’s done a lot of touring … and a lot of living. Deceptively simple, Langhorne’s a crackerjack when it comes to the art of the song. His wild heart and free spirit squeeze out past taut vocal chords, escaping his own personal confines in a poetic and ardent search for sugar in the down-and-out.
In early 2008, we became extra hooked by Langhorne Slim‘s saucy, freewheeling anthem, Rebel Side of Heaven, which further cemented my image of Langhorne as a rough rider – perhaps along the lines of a dirty fieldhand who discovered a reasonable pile of bills stuffed within a particularly bulky mattress, cleaned and dressed himself up and hurried, pockets full of cash, directly to a parlor purveying a variety of strong drinks, strong smokes, high-stakes card games and fancy women.
A modern-day version of this caricature is whom I expected to meet when Langhorne Slim visited us in the studio. And so, naturally, I was stunned by the arrival of a surprisingly clean cut, healthy and radiant Langhorne Slim. In a dissonant stupor, I must have asked Langhorne’s manager, Frank, more than a few times about Langhorne’s age and ‘how things are going’, remarking repeatedly on how great the artist looks. Langhorne did mention that he’d successfully quit smoking. And kicked a few other habits that weren’t enhancing his health. But I’m almost certain my mismatched expectation came on account that Langhorne Slim oozes, spits and bleeds poignant, weathered depth of soul through his music.
During the session, Langhorne continued to surprise, baring alarming vulnerability and earnestly investing himself in each performance. Langhorne and the band played an impressive set of inspired songs mostly from his new album, Be Set Free (Kemado, 9/29/09). His voice sounded good, often shining clear and sweet, at times bellowing from deep in the gut. Langhorne’s vocals and overall vibe bordered on newborn purity without lacking his signature sassy style.
Still, it was the master song-poet’s fragile sincerity that left me intrigued. After the session, I became broody and contemplative and hungry for more of the enigma. I listened to all of the recordings – old and new – multiple times. I used the google. And the more I’ve gotten to know of Langhorne Slim, the more I am captivated by the essence of his music.
These live recordings from Langhorne Slim’s Luxury Wafers session are fat with authenticity and rounded by his band – Malachi on drums, Jeff on stand-up bass and David on piano and banjo – who also contribute backing vocals. The songs convey a breadth of emotion from Langhorne’s enduring heart, which is perhaps a little more bound now, but his spirit glows afire with refreshed engagement and maturity. I’m sure that as long as we’re lucky enough to share Langhorne Slim’s presence on this earth, he’ll remain one of the rare and special greats among folk artists and musicians.
Listen to the Exclusive Live Tracks (option/click to download):