JJ Sheffer for Tri State Indie
If there were a Hall of Fame for the nicest musicians in the business, Langhorne Slim would have already received a lifetime achievement award. You can practically see the good vibes emitting from his pores, like the heat-shimmer over hot pavement in the summertime. His music reflects his affinity for celebrating love, and the crowd at the Ottobar on March 2 gave it right back to him.
Slim took the stage Friday night with his band, The Law (Jeff Ratner on upright and electric bass, Malachi DeLorenzo on drums, and David Moore on banjo and keys), opening with “Honey Pie” into “Cinderella,” and the crowd danced and sang along from the first note all the way through the second encore.
The set featured several songs from their upcoming album, The Way We Move, due out June 5. Some are songs that are road-tested crowd favorites that had yet to be included on any previous studio recordings; others were brand-new songs that had been written just before the guys headed to Old Soul Studios in Catskill, NY. They arrived with more than 25 songs under consideration for the album, and whittling it down could have been a daunting and arduous task.
“It was way easier than I thought it was gonna be,” says Langhorne Slim. “It’s a beautiful problem to have as a songwriter and someone who makes records. I’ve never had this problem before where we had this much material that we thought was album-worthy. We had recorded about 26 songs in a very short period of time. Basically what happened was we gave it some time after we recorded, and everybody sat back with the music for a while and then we compiled our lists individually and they came out pretty much the same.”
They selected a total of 14 songs for the record and about 10 more that will be featured in other ways, such as digital releases and fan thank-yous. The album was funded through a PledgeMusic campaign at the encouragement of an old friend who works for the crowd-sourcing site. It’s the first time Langhorne Slim & The Law has done a fan-funded campaign, but that type of community-driven project is a perfect fit for them.
“We’ve always been a band that likes to get down with our people too,” he says. It created another way for fans to connect with the band and the album, “and we like interacting with people who give a shit about our music.”
The Ottobar show was the third night of the current tour, which began in Albany, then Rochester, NY. It’s a new tour, but, as Slim puts it, “one seems to go into the other fairly quickly. We spend most of our year on the road. We take off a few weeks or a month here or there, but we’re kinda constantly hitting it.” That continuous touring schedule means the frontman is very comfortable being on the road.
“It’s the vehicle for what I’ve always wanted to do, so for me it’s being with some of my best friends, doing what makes me feel the most complete – playing my music for people every night – and traveling,” he says. “When I’ve been in one place for a long time, that’s when I feel restless and confused.”
That compulsion to stay on the road means he is rarely in Portland, OR, where he relocated two years ago. He recently put all his stuff into storage, and stays with friends during the brief time he spends there. And since they’re always on the road, the band is fortunate to feel very much at home in several different places.
“We have that [home feeling] in more than one place, which is pretty cool,” Slim says. “Part of why I moved to Portland is that for some reason it felt like home when I was walking down the street and the shows always felt like home shows. Philly feels like a hometown show because that’s where me and my bass player are from. And New York is where everybody in the band kind of got their musical start, so those kind of feel like home shows, too.”
Those might be the three cities that feel the most like hometown shows, but everywhere Langhorne Slim & The Law play, they connect with their adoring audiences. So many of the songs they played at the Ottobar included call and response (“Cinderella,” “And If It’s True”) or ad-libbed sections where Slim sometimes waxes sentimental with local references. All this could come off as patronizing, but in the hands of Langhorne Slim & The Law, it feels sincere and the crowd eats it up. Slim played the first few songs of the second encore solo, and as the band returned to the stage for a final song (“The Way We Move,” which will be the title track on the forthcoming album), he thanked the Baltimore crowd again for the warm reception:
“All B.S. aside, it isn’t always a really great time…but here it is, for some reason.”
Fans of Langhorne Slim’s previous albums are sure to love the new one. The new songs they played at the Ottobar have their own distinct hooks and stories to tell, but at the core are quintessentially Langhorne Slim. One has to wonder how someone who is always on the road, always playing shows, continues to be moved by the songwriting muse.
“I just take it when it comes to me,” Slim says. “ It doesn’t really matter if I’m on the road or not on the road. I get ideas all the time…I just try to be present when the spirit moves me.” He has also recently gotten “a fancy iPhone,” and has been using an app that allows him to record melodies as they come to him, even, as he says, when he’s walking down the street. “I’ve never been good with homework or having a system of doing anything, really, at a certain time, so I’m in the right profession, I guess.” So when inspiration strikes, he goes with it, and the songs come naturally and easily. “I just try to be present in that and treat it with love.”
It’s that simple. Turns out love is, in fact, all you need. Of course, a fancy iPhone doesn’t hurt, either.