Album Review: Langhorne Slim & The Law, ‘The Spirit Moves’
When Langhorne Slim sings, "I'm tough enough to run with the bulls / But I'm too gentle to live among wolves," on his latest album, the Nashville-based, Pennsylvania-raised singer-songwriter sounds half weary and half defiant. The song, a gentle folk ditty titled "Wolves," encapsulates the lowered guard that Slim reveals throughout this new set of songs. Speaking via the album's official press release, Slim explains that he's "a strong believer that sensitivity and vulnerability are not weaknesses." Those qualities, he goes on to argue, actually constitute some of humankind's greatest strengths. They also form the basis of what most of the album is about.
His fifth LP overall and his second with his band the Law, The Spirit Moves also addresses Slim's conviction that a living force surrounds us and infuses our lives at all times, provided we stay open to it. For Slim, this openness has not come without pain. Before making this record, he found himself single for the first time in years, relocated to Nashville and kicked a drug and alcohol problem that had lasted for nearly two decades. Naturally, that many life changes at once can leave a person feeling unsteady, but he found anchoring in his bandmates; he insists they are no mere hired hands. Slim even refers to them -- drummer Malachi DeLorenzo, bassist Jeff Ratner and banjoist David Moore -- as family members.
Likewise, he opted to work again with co-writer and spiritual compatriot Kenny Siegal, effectively bringing back the same personnel that worked on 2012's The Way We Move. This time however, Siegal co-wrote eight of the songs, a move which helped ease Slim's tendency to write in fits and starts and strain to complete songs. All that said, The Spirit Moves ambles along at an easy pace as Slim and the band touch on rural folk, country and soulful, psychedelic rock.
"How do you sleep at night holdin' another / Then re-apply your lipstick to kiss me?" he asks indignantly on "Whisperin'" -- an otherwise gentle toe-tapper that sees the whole band deliver understated performances. Understandably, he sounds a little stunned on the chorus when he sings, "Last night on your pillow / There was another man whisperin' to you," but as the song reaches its climax, he finally lets his feelings boil over. "You can keep your pillow," he wails, "and that son of a bitch that's been whisperin' to you."
Even in a fit of anguish, though, Slim keeps his cool -- and, like the record as a whole, just rambles on. The Spirit Moves comes as a welcome reminder that, when it comes to life, there's little else one can do.