Alt-country rocker Langhorne Slim broke away from his East Coast roots to find solace in Oregon
Thursday, July 21, 2011
In 2009, Sean Scolnick, aka Langhorne Slim, sang “God Bless America” during the seventh inning stretch in front of his favorite baseball team, the Philadelphia Phillies, and 40,000-plus fans. The honor was part of NPR’s Artist to Watch program.
“It was extremely surreal and terrifying,” Slim says. “I was nervous in the first place and the Phillies ended up having one of the worst innings they had that entire season and I think [Shane] Victorino got thrown out of the game for arguing, so the fans were pretty irate by the time I was introduced.”
Slim is grateful to have had the opportunity, but says he never needs to sing “God Bless America” at a sporting event again.
“The reception I had was kind of like when fans threw snowballs at Santa Claus during an Eagles game,” Slim says.
He will likely feel differently about Fernwood after playing a free show before its reliably rowdy and enthusiastic crowd in a redwood setting that seems to pull artists back like a tractor beam.
Like the Avett Brothers, the Pennsylvania native brings a gritty punk sensibility to alt-country sounds that weaves in and out of honkytonk, ragtime and Americana roots. (Not coincidentally, Slim has toured with the Avetts, Drive-By Truckers and The Low Anthem.) His self-titled debut is a masterpiece that glows with love songs, tales of broken hearts and traveling-man ballads. It’s difficult to skip past any of the 13 tracks. Each song breathes its own special life.
On the ironic, happy-go-lucky “Worries,” Slim reveals his relationship apprehensions through an out-of-control tambourine and honest lyrics sung with the sincerity of a little kid: “If you got worries then you’re like me/ Don’t worry now, I won’t desert you.”
With a roaring organ, “Rebel Side of Heaven” sounds like it came straight out of Bob Dylan’s early days of “Like a Rolling Stone” electrification. And Slim’s voice bleeds with the passion of an artist who, like Dylan, doesn’t give a goddamn what anyone thinks: “Though we have sinned all of our lives we’re not going to hell/ we’re going to the rebel side of heaven.”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nxei48kkNRM&NR=1
For years, Slim had no home, as he lived out of a suitcase and traveled, toured and crashed on friends’ couches before making a permanent move to the northwest. His most recent LP Be Set Free was the first album he recorded in his new hometown of Portland, Oregon.
“More than any place I’ve lived or visited, Portland seems like it was built for artists and musicians to exist easily,” he says. “I’m sure the new environment has had some effect on my songwriting, but I’m not really sure.”
Slim’s newest tune “The Way We Move”—which debuted last May and will appear on a future album—doesn’t seem to stray very far from the infectious sound of his first LP. The only difference is the singer-songwriter has even more confidence in his unorthodox country voice, which at times beautifully mimics the angsty screams of Kurt Cobain.
Slim is unsure when exactly he’ll begin recording his next album—which he says will include several tunes that were written on the toilet—but he is sure that he’s much more comfortable in life and as a musician now that he has a place to call home.
Langhorne Slim plays 9pm Saturday, July 23, at Fernwood, 47200 Highway 1, Big Sur. Free. 667-2422.