Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Paradise is a Lonely Place: Dylan LeBlanc's Cautionary Tale

Dylan LeBlanc may soon be a household name in contemporary song writing. In spite of the fact that he's only 26 years old, his tales of woe come from an old soul. His new album Cautionary Tale (Single Lock Records) was released on January 15, and it may be his most extroverted collection to date. LeBlanc debuted in 2010 to critical acclaim for Paupers Field (Rough Trade). His melancholy first album had some critics comparing him to Gram Parsons. In fact Emmylou Harris, who sang with Parsons, adds her voice to “If The Creek Don’t Rise.” Soon LeBlanc was opening for prestigious artists such as Lucinda Williams and Laura Marling. After his 2012 album, Cast The Same Old Shadow, LeBlanc was now opening for Drive-By Truckers and Alabama Shakes. But he didn’t handle his early success very well. His new album is a calm, introspective collection of songs about his life after getting over a bout of excessive drinking and reckless behaviour. Cautionary Tale casts himself as a mystic as opposed to just another singer-songwriter seeking redemption.

LeBlanc is from Shreveport, Louisiana by way of Muscle Shoals, Alabama and that heartfelt, Midwest sound is worn proudly on his sleeve. LeBlanc’s soulful songs aren't meant to swing hard or rock the listener into submission. His style is tuneful and beautiful, like the voice of an angel quietly whispering in your ear. Nick Drake had a similar power during his short life; his was a quiet truth-telling by sharing his pain, in song, as a kind of confessional even though you didn't think he did anything wrong. Like Drake, LeBlanc has suffered.

LeBlanc’s approach on Cautionary Tale is much more traditional and straight forward with simple instrumentation (guitar, bass and drums) adorned with violin and cello. His music has that blend of story telling and gentleness like Marty Robbins or Ray LaMontagne without the psychedelia. As LeBlanc sings on the beautiful track “Balance or Fall”, he says, “I come from a town where boys learn to stand tall ... so let the parlor boys play all my dying days ... I’m nobody’s friend and I’ll always be a stranger to them.” It’s a nicely arranged tune with a horn section seeking to pull him out of the darkness. LeBlanc seems to find comfort in being an outsider.

Other highlights include the gorgeous title track, the up-tempo and hopeful song “I'm Moving On” and a more commercial song called, “Roll the Dice” about the high-risk and high reward of a relationship. John Paul White, former member of the duo, The Civil Wars and Ben Tanner of Alabama Shakes produced the album. The pair has really helped to float the sound of the band to match LeBlanc's delivery. The result is a graceful recording that draws you in.

John Corcelli is a music critic, broadcast/producer, musician and member of the Festival Wind Orchestra. He's just finished Frank Zappa FAQ: All That's Left to Know About the Father of Invention (Backbeat Books) to be released in September.

No comments:

Post a Comment