There is nothing like the challenges and camaraderie of the road to inspire a songwriter who thrives upon the emotional energy and exhilaration only travel can deliver. Some singers are devoted to the pursuit of perpetual motion, and Langhorne Slim releases his wild soul in ways that come out of the discipline of live performance.
The 13 songs that compose Langhorne Slim & The Law’s new The Way We Move are roadtested, rollicking and very rock ‘n’ rolling tunes that the songwriter perfected with his loyal band, and come out of the kind of good times and bad experiences that songwriters of Langhorne’s lofty stature can turn into life-affirming rock ‘n’ roll. You could also call what Langhorne Slim does folk music, but then there’s his sly, charming and open-hearted feel for pop music—those summertime melodies that nudge you into a grin even when the song is about something bad.
For Langhorne Slim—Pennsylvania-born self-taught guitarist who moves to Brooklyn at 18, begins feeling out his place in a burgeoning punk-folk scene, wends his way to the West Coast, and finds himself celebrated from Newport to Portland as one of today’s most original singers and songwriters—The Way We Move represents the sound of a band devoted to living in the moment. Riding the success of his 2009 full-length Be Set Free, Langhorne went through some changes over the last three years—he lost his beloved grandfather, who is the subject of the new record’s moving “Song for Sid,” and moved on from a relationship that had lasted five years. And there was the physical moving—the literal side of the record’s title. Pulling up stakes from his home of two years,Portland,Ore., Langhorne also has been touring non-stop with The Law. As he says, “I’m in a bit of a transitional period—currently, the road will be home. That’s just kind of my spirit, to be slightly restless.” Perfecting their rangy sound out on the endless grey ribbon, Langhorne and The Law— bassist Jeff Ratner, drummer Malachi DeLorenzo and banjo player and keyboardist David Moore—went down to rural Texas in the summer of 2011 to work on new material. With some 30 tunes to consider, the quartet soaked up the Lone Star sunshine and developed arrangements and approaches for Langhorne’s latest batch of songs.
Jeff Ratner had joined the group at the time of Be Set Free, and brought on multi-instrumentalist David Moore not long after. Moore and Ratner go way back, having moved toNew Yorkaround the same time, and they’ve played together in what Jeff estimates are 15 bands. Langhorne’s association with Malachi is equally deep. As the group played together through tours with the Drive-By Truckers and the Avett Brothers, and made appearances at the Newport Folk Festival and Bonnaroo, their bond became ever stronger, their music more confident. This is what you hear on The Way We Move—forward motion meeting deep cohesion, all in the service of Langhorne’s amazing songs and compelling vocals.
“We wanted Langhorne’s songs to shine, and be as raw as the creatures that we are,” Jeff says of the recording process. The band set up in the Catskill, N.Y. Old Soul Studio, a 100-year-old Greek Revival house retooled for recording. With studio owner Kenny Siegal co-producing, Langhorne & The Law fearlessly ran through an astounding 26 songs in four days, with Langhorne putting finishing touches on new tunes as they recorded. Langhorne says it was an intimate affair in Old Soul, withMoore’s “banjo room” in a coatroom and the piano in the living room.