Hazlewood, the iconic country music rebel who died of cancer just this past summer, isn't who I'd expected Langhorne Slim - one of the most promising young songwriters playing today - to be listening to. Then again, after a few more listens to Langhorne's tunes, it makes sense.
Like a host of other male musicians his age, the 27-year-old Langhorne (real name Sean Scolnick, but I think I'll stick with Langhorne - just sounds cooler) plays a brand of mostly acoustic, but often-rocking music that's most easily, or perhaps lazily, classified as "folk" - or some people even go as far to call it "freak folk." But Langhorne doesn't really know what that's supposed to mean.
"I read an interview with Louis Armstrong one time and they asked him what folk music was. He said, 'well if you're not playing it for a horse, then it's folk music, it's for the folks,'" Langhorne explains, then adds,
"I play music for the people and if that's a definition of folk music, then sure, I guess I play folk."
Langhorne's music is gorgeous in the fact that it's both simple and stylistically dynamic in the same breath - songs like "In the Midnight" are gritty Americana on the surface, yet deeply technical when you scoop out Langhorne's quick-picking guitar from the mix of the upright bass and drums of his band, the War Eagles. In the end, his sound has some joyous old timey flavors - but Langhorne is less than enthusiastic when I call him old timey.
"I would rather not be called old timey. I'd rather be thought of as modern, because I'm making music right now," he says.
But he has a good point, he's not some crusty old twanger trying to summon the ghost of Hank Williams. Along with other songwriters like Josh Ritter and groups like Bend frequenters the Avett Brothers, Langhorne bends the idea of Americana and wraps it around a rock and roll core. Langhorne says rock was a big part of his upbringing.
"I was as drawn to harder rock bands as I was to Hank Williams or Dylan," he says, citing bands like Nirvana and Butthole Surfers as youthful favorites.
In many ways, the rock/folk/Americana twist that Langhorne and his colleagues are cultivating is very much a new genre and one that seems to be picking up popularity by the day - and the same could be said of Langhorne. The artist snagged a coveted spot on the Bonnaroo music festival last summer, played a rousing set at Portland's Pickathon, and has a new record dropping this spring.
And while Langhorne is a guy who music critics are drooling over and gets about 500 plays a day on his MySpace Music page (that's a lot), he's playing in Bend at McMenamins Old St. Francis School on Wednesday the 23rd for free. That's not a bad deal, and get it while you can, because a ticket to see this guy is probably going to cost you down the road.
7pm Wednesday, January 23. McMenamins Old St. Francis School. 700 NW Bond St., 382-5174. All ages. Free!