Leon Redbone,
Whistling in the Wind
(August, 1994; Rounder, 2004)

Originally released in 1994, Whistling in the Wind presents Leon Redbone doing what he does best, old-time jazz/blues/folk/pop music that sounds like it's from the 1920s through the 1940s. Even his original compositions sound like they're from that bygone era.

The first track, "Dancin' on Daddy's Shoes," offers a nice microcosm of his talents, sounding all friendly and comfortable, happily old-fashioned yet well-produced and recorded, with his great deep voice and quirky persona all working for him. This is one of six Redbone albums reissued in 2004 that join his Christmas disc and a 1992 live album in the Rounder catalogue.

"When I Kissed That Girl Goodbye" features Roger McGuinn on harmony vocal on a very lyrical track, sounding like folk music meets Broadway musical. "Bouquet of Roses" offers up a nice Hawaiian pedal steel guitar played by John Ely. This is great mental health music in that it's nigh on impossible to listen to this without smiling.

Merle Haggard joins Redbone for a guest vocal on "Settin' by the Fire," another track that wears like a pair of comfy slippers. Ringo Starr drops in for a guest duet vocal on "My Little Grass Shack," which also has that island steel guitar sound. It would be interesting to know exactly what year it is in Redbone's world. The players get to take some nice solos on "Love Letters in the Sand" including Redbone on acoustic guitar, Ely again on steel guitar and Ken Peplowski with some nice clarinet. "I Ain't Got Nobody" is the old familiar tune that David Lee Roth later covered in his medley with "Just a Gigolo."

Redbone's music evokes a seemingly realistic but ultimately imaginary vision of the past, much like that offered by the first half of the movie Titanic. It's neat to be able to visit, but it doesn't really exist, except maybe when you put the record on. Many thanks to Rounder Records for keeping this fine music in print. Redbone could justifiably be considered a national treasure, and Whistling in the Wind would be a worthy addition to record collections of many genres.

by William Kates
5 August 2006

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