Langhorne Slim: Causing a ruckus

Friday September 28, 2012

HUDSON, N. Y. - Langhorne Slim sure can make a lot of noise without having to plug anything in. Though he leans mainly on acoustic instruments ( one band member alternates between banjo and keyboard), the songwriter and bandleader is fully capable of causing a ruckus - and on stage, that's clearly part of his agenda.

Slim leads his rugged, road-tested band the Law to Helsinki Hudson tonight. River City Extension opens. "For me, with punk rock, early soul, early blues, there's a rawness and a dirtiness and a beautiful, freak kind of attitude to it that I think most great art and music spawns from," Slim says in a telephone interview from Nashville, where he was cooling his heels between legs of a tour. "It's not too cleaned up or too polished, it's just raw and real. And that's what I get off on. And that's what I try to let rip through my own art and music."

The 32-year-old Slim (born Sean Scolnick) took a stage name from his hometown of Langhorne, Pa., and has released a series of albums that veer between a lively, but lyrical spin on the singer- songwriter tradition and a rollicking acoustic thrash. His latest, "The Way We Move," was released in June.

It's on stage that the guitar-wielding Slim and his band - David Moore on keyboard and banjo, Jeff Ratner on upright bass and drummer Malachi DeLorenzo - excel.

The band's set at Pittsfield's Colonial Theatre, during the closing- night concert of the 2010 WordXWord Festival, was a sweaty, joyous affair, with Slim leaping on and off stage, frequently moving his mic stand around and leading sing-alongs.

It emphasized the robust colors of his sound in favor of the melodicism and exploration of different textures that is also present on their records.

The band tours eight or nine months a year, he estimates. It's enough for him to have given up his home base (the last time he paid rent was a year ago, he says, in Portland, Ore.) and just criss-cross the country in- between tours, staying with friends and family.

"I'm just kind of hopping around. I'm a ramblin' man now," he says, with a chuckle but more than a bit of truth.

He bounced around with a couple indie labels before turning to crowd-funding for the latest release. Slim sets out to make albums with a capital A, but he understands that today's music consumer isn't always thinking that way.

" I'm not completely delusional, I'm aware a lot of people don't listen to music that way these days. When I listen to 'Ziggy Stardust,'" he says, referring to the David Bowie album, "I listen to it from the first song to the last song. I'm also fond of the days when I used to make mix tapes. However people want to connect with it is fine by me. But when you're putting the thing together, you certainly want a cohesive album."

He said he avoided overdubs on the new record, cutting as much of the music live in-studio as possible, whereas his past work used the usual technique of recording an instrumental track first before layering vocals on top.

"It was the first time that I've ever made a record where we cut it as live as we did," he says. " For our band, when we're at our best it's a very live and energetic vibe. I think it brought out the best of what we do."

He's a prolific songwriter, eager to try out new material on the road, and says he has another 25 to 30 songs ready to consider for the next record. (An EP of new material for Record Store Day next April - an occasion for which many artists put out vinyl-only releases and make them available only to independent music stores - seems a possibility.) The band also recently recorded a North Carolina show, to keep in the vault and release at some point as a live album.

" There's an energy that can't really be recreated in a studio or a home studio. We did attempt it in playing this record as live as we could, to have more of that energy and feel to it," Slim says. " But when you get a crowd of people freaking out, there's nothing quite like that."


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