Take the songwriting of Conor Oberst and add some rock music. Then take the acoustic, emotional songs from Ben Harper and make them sound live. Then take the live sound of Bob Dylan and add a banjo. Then mix that all together and pop in some headphones and what you’ll get will probably be something close to, but not exactly, Langhorne Slim and The Law.
The Way We Move, the songwriter and his band’s newest album, is a cohesive collection of 14 songs, recorded in a 100-year-old Greek Revival house retooled for recording in Catskill, NY. The recording space, to my ears, is a huge part of this album, giving it a raw sound. Raw meaning that it sound like they recorded it and mastered it and said, “No, that sounds too…perfect, let’s just do it as a one-take and be done with it. Don’t mess with a good thing.” From the scratchy, emotional vocals to the unadulterated acoustic guitars and snappy drums, this album sound very much like a live album. I imagine that this album would sound as good live as it does recorded and that’s a rare treat.
While the overall sound of the album is consistent throughout, it’s not without variety. There are rock songs with pounding bass drums. There are soft, piano led songs about love. There are songs that serve as memoirs about lost loved ones. There are 8 songs that are under 3 minutes, showing that Langhorne and the guys don’t make a song last longer than it needs to. There are banjos, harmonicas, keys, upright basses, horns, and, at times, no instruments at all.
The Way We Move begins with the title track, a fast paced song that has Slim yelling “This is the way we move” with echoes from the band. It’s a great, upbeat rock song that recalls the great songwriters and singers of a few generations ago. Perhaps my favorite track on the album is “Fire”, a song that relies on jazzy keys and horns and Ben Harper-esque vocals to sing about an old love. When he sings, “When I was just a little boy, wild and insecure,/ I kissed a girl and she made me smile, and I caught her fire”, you can believe that that person really exists.
One of the real treats of the album is Slim’s ability to switch from fast paced rock songs to slow songs seamlessly. The first example is “Salvation”, a song about sings about the ups and downs, the highs and lows of every relationship and how the end of a relationship can be a relief. “It’s no wonder how we got here, in many ways I wrote the script/ by loading all our treasures into the belly of a sinking ship./ I tried to hold you but my hands were cold,/ I meant to catch you but I moved too slow,/ I hate to leave you but it’s time to go.”
Another example is “Song for Sid”, a song about Slim’s grandfather who recently passed. It’s a song that shows the depth of love and care we all have for family. “Tell me, where do the great ones go when they’re gone?” It’s the most poignant song on the album and worth an extra listen. As is “Past Lives”, a song that contemplates all possible lives you may or may not have lived. It’s an interesting concept and the song reflects that depth with thought-provoking lyrics.
The whimsical side of Slim comes out in “Wild Soul” when he sings after whistling, “Nothing here belongs to us, and soon we’ll all be dust,/ and even if it’s dangerous, Lord, release my wild soul.” While the album may not dazzle on the first listen, The Way We Move is, as Rolling Stone put it, “damn near perfect”. You’d be hard pressed to find a problem with the album unless you like really long songs. It’s got everything and all that in abundance.