ALBUMS: Strawberry Letter ’21

Langhorne Slim shares resolve and reassurance from the sweet environs of his Strawberry Mansion

Langhorne Slim 2021 (Art: Ron Hart)

The singer / songwriter’s main task has always been to share an emotional outlook, doing so in a way that allows others to relate.

Whether it was Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger and Bob Dylan expressing the need for change and challenging or Joni Mitchell, Janis Ian and Sandy Denny sharing both strength and sensitivity during a personal journey of discovery, it’s always been the most tattered of troubadours that have made the kind of music that resonates to the fullest.


Artist: Langhorne Slim

Album: Strawberry Mansion

Label: Dualtone 

★★★★ (4/5 stars)


Langhorne Slim epitomizes that kind of artist, one who’s sometimes uncertain, but always expressive regardless. His songs effectively convey his innermost insecurities and the way that trouble and travails can encumber even a life well-lived. In a career that encompasses nearly 18 years, he’s made it a point to plough through his deepest emotions, doing so in a way that offers reassurance to anyone who may share his uncertainty about how best to find their way forward.

Slim’s earlier albums — Be Set Free, The Spirit Moves and The Way We Move in particular — were ideal examples of how an artist can express his or her feelings and make them meaningful to others at the same time. 

Langhorne Slim Strawberry Mansion, Dualtone 2021

That said, his new album, Strawberry Mansion — so named for the neighborhood where both his grandfathers were raised — delves deeper into his psyche than ever before. And the fact that it boasts no fewer than 19 songs makes those revelations all the more meaningful. “Don’t know how I’m feelin’,” he sings on the auspiciously dubbed, but surprisingly upbeat “Panic Attack.” “But I’m feelin’ feelings exponentially.” 

It’s that willingness to lay those feelings bare with courage and conviction that finds the material all the more emphatic and expressive. “We won’t disappear if we go away,” he insists one song later with the lovely and lilting “Sing My Song.” “There’s nothing to fear, And I‘ll sing my song when my song appears.” 

That particular track comes as a bit of a relief, considering that he’s subsequently admitted to have struggled with writer’s block. However with the advent of the pandemic, the tornado that ravaged an area of Nashville, and the political pandemonium that had the nation in its grip, Slim somehow find a way to channel his creativity to find fruition in the midst of these angst-intensive times.  Here again, he waxes poetically on those troubles and travails:

 

“This old world is full of fear and greed

Love it is the door

And faith’s the key…

For a world down on its knees
I pray for thee.”

 

While the tone may seem uncertain at times, especially given Slim’s attempts to grapple with the paradox and the paradigm that the world finds itself encountering these days, the music itself isn’t laden with gloom or despair. The light-hearted instrumental “Strawberry Mansion,” the sheer beauty of “Last One Standing” and easy caress of “Something Higher” — not to mention the  sweet serenade that informs “No Right Way”and “Alright To Hide,” “Morning Prayer” and “Colors” — are all indicative of the melodies that make Strawberry Mansion such a welcome respite. Indeed, Slim offers affirmation and advocacy for those that have found themselves distanced and disenfranchised during these troublesome times. 

Credit, then, Langhorne Slim with giving himself to the greater good. His revelations will likely resonate with everyone that needs reassurance and encouragement to persevere. And ultimately, that’s the greatest gift of all.

 

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Lee Zimmerman

Lee Zimmerman is a writer and columnist based in beautiful Maryville Tennessee. Over the past 20 years, his work has appeared in dozens of leading music publications. He is also the author of Americana Music: Voice, Visionaries, and Pioneers of an Honest Sound, which will be published by Texas A&M University Press early next year.

One thought on “ALBUMS: Strawberry Letter ’21

  • February 19, 2021 at 1:48 am
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    Strawberry Mansion is a place of despair, violence and death. The subtext of a Philly native’s view of the neighborhood is to feel crushed by the ravages of inequity.

    Reply

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