Langhorne Slim,
When the Sun's Gone Down
(Narnack, 2005)

Langhorne Slim's When the Sun's Gone Down could easily be just a pleasant diversion, a collection of ballads to file somewhere between the folk and the insurrectionist country. But Slim has a secret weapon, and it comes out the second he opens his mouth.

Langhorne Slim's voice is amazing. It's not beautiful, or elegant, or even familiar. It lives in the wastelands of sounds somewhere between a mountain lion's scream and a half-tuned banjo. And when he slows down a little, it can be heard to trip over the slightest cracks in a composition. But it never falls, even going over the roughest tunes, and from the first syllable of "In the Midnight," that voice rocks.

There's plenty of other material things to enjoy in this collection of heartbreaks and celebrations. The lyrics verge on the poetic, finding new wonders in even familiar themes. Check out the hesitant revelations in "The Electric Love Letter" or the mad enthusiasm in the ode to "Loretta Lee Jones." The music itself, informed by the catchy riffs and quick licks of the best of modern folk, is challenging in the best way, innovative without being pretentious. And the playing, from Slim's own guitar work and Charles Butler's banjo to Chris Taylor's outstanding sax or the delightfully unusual B3 organs, has the energy or an organized riot and the grace of a ballet.

But it's Slim's voice that powers the glorious shay of When the Sun's Gone Down. It's a voice that gives simple compositions like "Mary" a sweet honesty, and adds an ironic touch of proud to the confessional "I Ain't Proud." It gives "By the Time the Sun's Gone Down" the holiness of a prayer as well as the pain of a romantic farewell. And when Langhorne Slim allows that "I Love to Dance," there no resisting the urge to join the party.

When the Sun's Gone Down isn't smooth. It isn't standardized for easy filing. It's just great fun and good music, with a sound that can't quite come from anywhere else.

by Sarah Meador
16 June 2007

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