Sean Scolnick’s metamorphosis into Langhorne Slim came about completely naturally, but that doesn’t mean it’s been painless. Right from the point that underground Americana disciples discovered the singer-songwriter, through the 2005 roots raver When the Sun’s Gone Down, there have been questions. The biggest one is how someone raised in the well-to-do, whiter-than-Colombian-snow borough of Langhorne, Pennsylvania ended up sounding like a southern-gothic shit-kicker.
“Because of the style of dress that I sometimes like to wear, and because of where I’m from, I think sometimes people have thought ”˜This guy can’t be for real,’ ” Scolnick says, on his cellphone from a Michigan highway the day after a successful stand in Toronto. “You get a thicker skin when you do this for a while, but at first, that kind of shook me up and bothered me. It’s like, ”˜I’m just doing this because this is what makes me happy.’ Not to be too corny on you, but this is the truest form of expressing myself that I know. To have someone question the authenticity of that was, at first, startling.”
If When the Sun’s Gone Down’s stomping take on banjo-powered Americana got audiences wondering where Langhorne Slim came from, then the singer’s eponymous sophomore album spews more fuel on the fire. Scolnick—who has a penchant for porkpie hats and Swordfish Trombones–brand clothing—acknowledges that he stretched out musically, dabbling in everything from Smoky Mountains folk (“Restless”) to saloon-boogie R&B (“Colette”) to ’60s-soaked pop (“She’s Gone”).
“I don’t sit down and go ”˜I’m going to write this kind of song right now,’ ” he says. “It wasn’t a conscious decision to be all over the place. But as a human being I’m all over the place, so I guess that the record kind of makes sense.”
Backed by his band the War Eagles (bassist Paul Defiglia and drummer Malachi DeLorenzo) Scolnick still does moonshine country as authentically as anyone signed to Bloodshot. What stands out most on Langhorne Slim though is that he suddenly seems like he’s got a serious taste for Memphis-style soul. Cat Power herself would be impressed by the singer’s turn on the organ-drenched “Diamonds and Gold”.
The whole package has been enough to turn being Langhorne Slim into a full-time job. That’s doubly gratifying considering that, a couple of years back, Scolnick was staying solvent by working odd jobs, including a stint as a coat-check boy.
“I was never a very good employee, which led me partially to doing what I do,” he notes. I don’t have to answer to a boss—I’ve never been very good at that. But we are at this point, knock on wood, self-sufficient. It seems that it’s growing at this point, unlike the last three years. Some people hit it real quick. For us, it’s always been a slow progression.
“But that’s okay,” Scolnick continues. “Everyone starts playing in their bedroom or their basement, or, in my case, the bathroom. The dream is then to get the music you’re creating out there and hopefully appreciated by as many people as possible.”
Langhorne Slim plays the Bourbon on Saturday (June 28).