langhorne slim be set free
  • TUESDAY, DECEMBER 15, 2009

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Folksy guitarman Langhorne Slim takes his jam band to new places with Be Set Free, the latest installment in the prolific band's menagerie of uplifting tunes. Being introduced to the band initially in the live setting set me up to expect a strong translation. I'm happy to say the colorful personalities of his band mates shine through the lush production and smile-inducing moments abound. The record has an interesting blend of nostalgic charm and bluesy wit, with its mostly traditional instrumentation and melodies you can sing along to before even hearing them; Be Set Free lives up to its name literally and figuratively.

It is nice to put away the techno-schlop and freak-out tactics of the current indie climate. Animal Collective, Dirty Projectors, Flaming Lips, and soon Yeasayer will join the ranks of the chic, wildly unpredictable electro-pyschadelia that critics eat up like hot cakes. On the other side of that is the watery glitz pop that floods the radio; from the respectable to the autotuned to oblivion, and although its greasy and cheap, you can't eat that garbage every day for dinner. Slim comes from a different time; a place where instruments exist outside laptops, and where melodies can be sticky without consuming your spirits, and lyrics can be affecting and catchy without talking about gang banging, intravenous drug use, or comparing love to genocide.

First hearing "Cindarella" in a small, cramped room really raised my expectations for Slim and his band (go watch it and come back). Luckily every bit of energy they exuded (and a little drunk to boot), is amplified by the recording's horns, piano, and shouting. Another important element: Slim's signature voice. His distinct, raspy tenor really colors in the songs in person, and translated beautifully to Be Set Free. Basically, "Cindarella" is a great song, and it doesn't depend on anything but itself to be enjoyable. No bells and whistles necessary, just a bunch of guys playing music together.

The appeal of Slim is kind of a difficult sell to the haters; the abundance of bland blues and folk out there is overwhelming (not to mention occasionally appallingly bad). But Slim is proving that we'll never run out of new folk heroes, no matter what the era. Especially in todays music climate of gimmicks and innovaiton, we still need someone to reinvent the classics. I'm not saying he is the next Bob Dylan, or Neil Young, or even Jeff Tweedy (yet). But his voice is instantly recognizable, his songs are simple in the best way, charged and touching, and he really believes it when he sings. After all, all of our musical heroes from whatever genres all have one thing in common: sincerity. Some might argue its the most important quality a successful musician can possess.

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MP3: Langhorne Slim - "Say Yes" (Be Set Free)
Video: Langhorne Slim @ The Guest Apartment
Langhorne Slim on Myspace

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