Tag Archives: Leon Redbone

365 Days of Album Recommendation – June 2

Leon Redbone – Champagne Charlie


I picked this up on vinyl this weekend at a local LP sale for $2! This, and the previously recommended On The Track. Man, I am a happy guy!

This is #3 in the long, strange, and delightful saga of one Leon Redbone.

Objectively, it is neither as brilliantly conceived as On The Track, nor as song-strong and eclectic as Double Time, but it carves an important niche for itself all the same, and is probably the most charmingly, self-consciously, and romantically “old-time” of his early releases, evoking barbershop and vaudeville as much as it does blues, jazz, and ragtime.

It’s probably also his most croonerly release as well, as is comparatively light on the vocal noisemaking that features more prominently on other LPs.

“Big Bad Bill (Is Sweet William Now)” and “I Hate A Man Like You” are the stand-out tracks for me, tho his mournful take on Jimmie Rodgers’ “T.B. Blues” is epic as well. Highly recommended listening!

365 Days of Album Recommendations – Feb 6

Leon Redbone – On The Track


This album is a straight-up Americana clinic. Every single song is flawlessly executed, flawlessly performed, flawlessly produced. This album is an homage to greatness, and an act of greatness that requires we pay it homage.

That this album is a DEBUT … is astonishing.

Is it true that Leon Redbone is also a man named Dickran Gobalian? I don’t know, and I don’t care.

It IS true that Bob Dylan’s namecheck got him a Rolling Stone feature and a record contract. But none of this explains how fully formed Leon Redbone was upon arrival.

Jazz, Blues, Ragtime, Tin Pan Alley, The Great American Songbook, Standards, Dance Tunes, Novelty Pieces, Reels, Stomps, Ballads, Laments … what ISN’T in this man’s repertoire?

Jimmy Rogers, Irving Berlin, Lonnie Johnson, Fats Waller … it’s all here. As is the fingerpicking, the crooning, the humming, the buzzing, the yodeling … as are the tubas, the violins, the banjos, the castanets …

The album is an American roots music tour de force. It’s indescribable. It’s an 11-song walk through the history of everything that’s great about songs. Period.

Recommended track to start with: My Walking Stick.

Because it’s style incarnate. Listen, and be transported. Both literally, and figuratively.



A Scholarly Paper On Preacher Boy?


Preacher Boy: A Citations-Included Scholarly Performance Review, and Guerrilla-Raw Recordings From The Show

I have been fortunate to receive a great many press reviews over the years. Most of them have actually been quite favorable, for which I’m grateful. Some even remarkably so. Many have been funny, some almost frighteningly spot on, and virtually all have had something insightful to contribute.

That Canadian publication that likened my singing to “Motorhead’s Lemmy singing the blues?” That was awesome.

The Seattle newspaper that described my music as “dark, beautiful, desperate, and soulful?” I loved that.

And of course, getting reviewed by Rolling Stone was pretty special, though getting a nod from Living Blues may have even topped that, given that I pretty much grew up reading that magazine. Still hard to believe I ended up in those hallowed pages.

The point being, I’ve been lucky that so many generous individuals have elected to write about my music. But a scholarly article, complete with citations and the like? That’s something new for me.

Yet that’s exactly what has transpired. Jonathan Dryden, one of the finest musicians working today–a true piano virtuoso–and a deep musicological student of all things Americana, has penned what I think is a rather extraordinary article based on a recent Preacher Boy performance, and focused on a suite of turn-of-the-century songs that feature in my rather ramshackle repertoire.

I am humbled beyond imagining by this piece of prose, and honestly hesitated to even share it. Well, at least I hesitated for a second or two. Truthfully, I couldn’t wait to share it. I am proud and humbled both, and genuinely stunned to find what I do so deeply understood, so “gotten.” Mr. Dryden is as sensitive and intelligent a writer as one could hope to be on the receiving end of, and I am so grateful to have been considered in this fashion.

Here is an excerpt from this paper:

“Compared to Len Spencer’s jerky and hurried version from the 1910s [Preacher Boy’s] pace was leisurely but well-timed. In his hands, the song didn’t sound one hundred-twenty years old. It was fresh and exciting, and the lyrics weren’t dated. He played it in a modern shuffle rhythm, alternating between G major and minor from beat to beat in the opening four measures instead of the traditional G major throughout. Where there had only been a tonic and dominant chord in the song, he found ways to insert sub-dominant and relative minor chords that brought out the melody and lyrics even more than a plain rendition would have done.”

You can read the full paper by clicking Preacher-Boy-at-Aptos-BBQ-1232015.

And should you wish to listen to some of the performance yourself, here are a few live guerrilla-raw recordings from the show in question:

Take Me Back


You’ve Been A Good Old Wagon, Daddy But You Done Broke Down

Shine On Harvest Moon

For my versions of the above, I am indebted to recordings by Mance Lipscomb, Mississippi John Hurt, Leon Redbone, and Dave Van Ronk.

And for this post, and the story it contains, I am indebted specifically to Jonathan Dryden. Thank you, sir! And I am of course indebted to all at Aptos St BBQ, upon whose stage I had the pleasure of performing these songs. I am also indebted to anyone who has been gracious enough to write about me and/or the music I play. And finally, I am indebted to the music that came before me, and the musicians who made it. Deep bows to all.

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