Langhorne Slim and the Law: The Way We Move

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Langhorne Slim and the Law’s 2012 record The Way We Move is filled with finely crafted acoustic nuggets that defy easy categorization. Some tunes have an almost Celtic quality: the title track (video below) is reminiscent of the Pogues, the bridge on “Wild Soul” sounds like an outtake from Van Morrison’s His Band and the Street Choir with its wistful horns, and the emotional character of the music shares a sensibility with Glen Hansard. Other tunes, like “Past Lives” (above), have a decidedly jazz influence. And always present is the spare, troubadour spirit of Bob Dylan.

What binds all the songs together is the wrenching vocal style of Langhorne Slim (born Sean Scolnick).  His voice at times borders on grating, like he is trying to sing with splinters stuck in his throat. That may not sound like a recipe for sonic bliss, but it adds a depth and introspective quality that works well as a counterpoint to the music’s under-stated acoustic vibe.

The songs on The Way We Move are mostly about the familiar theme of lost love but the record is not self-pitying. The lyrics both accept responsibility and bristle with defiance. On “Salvation,” Slim acknowledges, “It’s no wonder how we got here/In many ways I wrote this script/By loading all our treasures/Into the belly of a sinking ship.” While on “Past Lives,” he finds literal resurrection in new love: “When they said that I was dead/It wasn’t true/I was just dead to you/And I ain’t dead anymore.”

In addition to its ranging styles and visceral vocals, what keeps me going back to this record is the band’s ability to bring a level of sophistication to their stripped-down rawness. This band sounds like it would be comfortable performing both at an upscale piano bar and in the New York City subway. In fact, Slim’s vocals sound like they may have been honed on a subway platform trying to be heard above the screeching roar of an approaching N train.

Langhorne Slim and the Law are scheduled to release a new album in 2015, their first since The Way We Move. I will be marking my calendar.

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