Like a wobbly-kneed foal gaining its balance, finding its legs, and slowly being put through its paces, Langhorne Slim’s career has been as much a journey of discovery for himself as his growing audience. A rebellious folk-blues colt who raced out of the gate with hungry, hellbent passion, Slim’s spent the last half-dozen years polishing those early rough edges.
The 30-year old Slim (born Sean Scolnick) has been making music since before the millennium, but it’s only been a serious pursuit since he (barely) graduated from the Conservatory of Music at Purchase College, just outside N.Y.C. At the time he was attending open mic events and coffeehouse gigs. Slim met Jason Trachtenburg, who took a shine to him and made him the Trachtenburg Family Slideshow Players’ opening act. He missed most of his senior year as a result, but his professors were sympathetic to the work-study aspect of touring.
His earliest efforts mined a rootsy, harmonica-addled skiffle, rife with raw maudlin ache. Before long he’d secured a backing trio, the War Eagles, and a label deal with indie Narnack. He released an EP for V2 before the label closed shop. Kemado Records snapped him up in 2008.
Slim’s songwriting is highlighted by woozy late-night ballad “Diamonds and Gold.” The song warns that money won’t forestall age, suggesting “take some chances, allow yourself to get lost,” and advising “you gotta learn to get a little happy along the way.” It’s emblematic of the earnest uplift that drives much of his music.
Be Set Free followed a year later. Slim explored a richer, fuller-bodied sound on the album, abetted by a squadron of strings, horns, and organs. The ramshackle bustle gave way to a certain elegance and grace without sacrificing the fire in Slim’s belly. It was a surprisingly mature effort that helped him escape the increasingly crowded Americana ghetto.
Last year, Slim settled in Portland, Ore., where he’s been working on his next album. He’s still emerging as a musical artist, fulfilling a dream that began nearly two decades ago. Or at least one of those dreams.