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Tim “Too Slim” Langford - Broken Halo

Underworld Records

11 songs; 41:27 minutes; Suggested

Styles: Modern and Traditional Acoustic Blues, Instrumentals, Country Folk, Patented Too Slim Music

What’s on a serious songwriter’s mind when he or she puts pen to paper? Tim “Too Slim” Langford, leader of Too Slim and The Taildraggers, gives listeners a glimpse into the creative thought process in “Three Chords,” the second song on his newest release, Broken Halo. For only the second time in Langford’s 18 albums recording career, he has put forth a solo, acoustic, studio set with Tim playing all instruments and handling all vocals. From a songwriter’s perspective, Slim sings, “You never know if they will care what you write down from your pen ... You get three chords to tell it all ... Three chords to make them weep three chords to make them think....” Like all artists who put their work on display, self doubts and anxiety naturally creep in: “The writers thoughts, are on display, for all to judge or criticize / Digging deep, into your mind, is such a lonely place sometimes.”

Across this wonderful and amazing, eclectic set of eleven original songs, Langford’s maturity is reflected in songs of compassion for others, contemplation, pathos, hope, and heart felt emotion. Gone are the earlier hard-partying songs calling for “One More Shot” and self-centered songs like “Dat’s Right.” Present, beyond the lyrics, is intricate guitar work from a master who has honed his chops over almost 40 years of playing. One hears his custom Dobro, acoustic six string guitars, slide tenor ukulele, and harmonica accompanied by programmed drums and electric bass. Again working at home with co-producer Conrad Uno in Seattle’s Egg Studios, Langford was comfortable and relaxed affording his full artistry to bloom unrestricted from the outside pressures of some earlier CDs.

“La Llorona” (The Weeping Woman) --The slow, haunting and mysterious opening instrumental track on Broken Halo will stop listeners cold in their tracks. It sets the mood for the rest of the album informing that this is not a Too Slim and The Taildraggers Rock fest. “La Llorona” will make Too Slim fans ask questions: Why does “La Llorona” weep? What is she mourning, in order for so much raw pain to pour out in her tears? Too Slim’s guitar is no longer an acoustic instrument here, but a woman of flesh and blood, her body dissolving with wracking sobs. This would be a perfect opening number for the soundtrack of a movie involving ghosts. One thing’s for certain: “La Llorona” will haunt you long after the closing chords of her wordless ballad are finished.

Track 4 “You Hide It Well”--We all have our secrets, but in this gritty acoustic, 12 bar stomp, Too Slim wants to tell an inebriated friend that his secret’s out: “I know you like to party, have a lot of fun. You could look me in the eye and say you were not drunk. Make me believe every word you said, and explain away all those nasty bumps on your head. You hide it well….” Is that last statement a compliment or a criticism? From the wry tone of how Slim repeats his pal’s alibi, it’s probably the latter: “Yeah, you’ve got it all under control….” This Blues-radio-ready song ends on a hopeful note, with a heartfelt plea for redemption in the face of addiction. The richly melodic slide guitar solo at mid-song reflects that hopefulness rather having the scolding tone his inebriated friend had earned. Blues-radio programmers will also want to include the other 12 bar Blues song, a spirited rendition of “Long Tail Black Cat,” which was one of Langford’s earliest creations.

Track 6 “40 Watt Bulb”--This song could be considered a dark follow-up to “Three Chords,” especially when those Chords fail to work their magic on a drunken crowd with a belligerent heckler. The Bluesman narrator’s situation is desperate: “In a crack hotel and it’s 20 below, warming my hands on a 40-watt bulb. The heater don’t work, and they don’t give a [expletive]. The blues don’t get no bluer than this. Well, I thank you, Lord, for the musical gift, but the devil’s in control of the rest of this [expletive].” “40 Watt Bulb” reminds blues fans that life on the road isn’t as glamorous as they might imagine. Even though this song is unsuitable for radio airplay, it tells the truth about the underside of a blues musician’s life. It’s not pretty or bright.

Across this stellar set, Langford has put his “Three Chords” to ultimate good use. When fans are ready to take a breather from dancing to the hard charging music performed by the full Too Slim and The Taildraggers band, they can sit back, listen, and appreciate Tim “Too Slim” Langford on a whole new level. It is a pause that’s richly rewarding! Amy Walker contributed to this review.

Reviewer James "Skyy Dobro" Walker is a noted Blues writer, DJ, Master of Ceremonies, and Blues Blast contributor. His weekly radio show "Friends of the Blues" can be heard Saturdays 8 pm - Midnight on WKCC 91.1 FM and at in Kankakee, IL.

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