(HUDSON, N.Y.) – With bands like Mumford & Sons and the Avett Brothers leading the way, old-fashioned, boisterous folk-rock is making a big comeback. With its new recording, The Way We Move, Langhorne Slim & The Law stake their claim to the contemporary folk-rock pantheon. The upstate New York group performs at Club Helsinki Hudson – just across the river from Catskill, N.Y., where the group recorded the album at Kenny Siegal’s Old Soul Studio – on Friday, September 28, 2012, at 9 p.m.
With The Law – bassist Jeff Ratner, drummer Malachi DeLorenzo and banjo player and keyboardist David Moore – Langhorne Slim 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. Ratner had joined the group at the time of Be Set Free, and brought on multi-instrumentalist David Moore not long after. Langhorne’s association with DeLorenzo is 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 propulsive songs and compelling vocals.
The band returned to its home turf and 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, with Moore’s “banjo room” in a coatroom and the piano in the living room.
It comes through on The Way We Move – the live feel of the sessions, which found Langhorne singing along with the band on every track. “Singing with the band that way, it’s almost like I was performing on stage,” he says. Cutting everything live to tape gave the band exactly what they’d been looking for: a super-charged evocation of their raucous, friendly stage performances. Langhorne and Ratner value in music for its rawness, and it doesn’t matter whether that rawness – the insurgent spirit that unites the Clash and Charlie Poole – comes from in punk, country, soul or folk. Langhorne is a fan of Porter Wagoner, Jimmie Rodgers, Waylon Jennings, and early rock ‘n’ roll in general. But there’s nothing referential or detached about the music Langhorne & The Law make. Langhorne writes songs that are yearning, sad, happy, defeated and optimistic, with hints of ‘50s rock ‘n’ roll balladry.
“We all love Wu-Tang Clan as much as we love Bowie, or Brazilian psychedelic pop,” Langhorne says. On The Way We Move, Moore’s probing piano often provides focus for Langhorne’s tales of love and loss. “On the Attack” begins with a delicate, watercolor section that turns into an ingenious variation on a classic soul ballad – Solomon Burke meets punk blues in a smoky folk club. Langhorne addresses it to a current or past love. Similarly, “Past Lives” sports a piano introduction that gives way to a melancholy 6/8 ballad that perfectly supports lyrics about possible past lives and their interaction with the present. Moore’s extended keys solo on the outro of “Fire,” combined with the horn arrangements, recalls The Band of Rock of Ages vintage.
The new record moves in ways that are fresh for Langhorne Slim & The Law, and demonstrates all the ways we can go forward while keeping an eye on the mirror. They’re laying down the law. It’s very American, and when Langhorne Slim contemplates whether or not he fits in to any narrow-cast definition of this country’s music, he replies with a perfect, laconic joke: “I think we fit in most places that would take us.”
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