Review : Dylan Leblanc - Paupers Field
ContactmusicPaupers Field, the debut album from Louisiana-born twenty year-old Dylan LeBlanc, is a solid and knowing release of country-tinged American folk which evidences great experience and maturity, especially from one so young.
The country-folk blend which LeBlanc rapidly proves himself youthful master of is affirmed right from the albums' opening; 'Low' brings together picked acoustic guitar, brushed drums and gentle country twinges of pedal steel guitar over which LeBlanc's soothing whispered vocals sensitively meander. Suggesting LeBlanc as something of a countrified John Mayer, love song 'Low' announces his talent for writing beautiful soothing music. Interspersing melancholic down-temp numbers with occasional more driven tracks such as the banjo-ridden 'If Time Was For Wasting', which sounds resemblance to a more delicate cross between The Thrills and Mumford & Sons, Paupers Field ebbs and flows with great emotion and precision.
Comparisons with and influence of the likes of Conor Oberst (Bright Eyes), Ryan Adams and Neil Young ooze throughout the album in every guise, from the gentle and meaningful 6/8 ballads 'Tuesday Night Rain' and 'On With The Night', to the intricately picked guitar which accompanies LeBlanc's heartfelt vocal throughout 'Emma Hartley', 'Ain't Too Good At Losing' and 'Death Of Outlaw Billy John'. The familiar storytelling nature of his lyrics also harks back to his main influences and the bluesy-folk roots of LeBlanc's style; so too the instrumentation, in particular the near-constant sounding of country-folk pedal steel guitar twinges and plucked banjo maintaining evidence of inspiration heavily rooted in Americana....full text
BbcThere's nothing wrong with it, per se. It's immaculate, sound-wise. Beautifully polished, smoothed to perfection. You can't fault the singer's pedigree – he’s the son of a Muscle Shoals session musician, and would hang out with legends like Spooner Oldham at the age of 11. He learnt to 'pick' a guitar a few years before that. His voice is wistful and crooning, with a slight lisp and hiccup, like a beautiful 20-year-old Louisiana version of Townes Van Zandt, or perhaps the less glamorous part of the She & Him equation, M. Ward. Nor can you fault the company that the singer keeps: Emmylou Harris adds vocals to If the Creek Don't Rise. The timing, the pace, the pedal steel a-howling in the background... faultless, as is the lyrical content (mostly “please pity me, poor drunken wretch of a country singer that I am” – with some classic Gram Parsons-esque observations on love, loss and everything in-between). If Time Was for Wasting even sounds like Neil Young roaming the hills surrounding San Francisco.
Paupers Field is all the above, and it's certainly not unpleasant to listen to, either. (You'll forgive the reviewer here if he wants to lapse into such trite clichés as “his music slips down easy like a time-mellowed malt”. Paupers Field sort of begs for such descriptive language.) And yet you still want something to jar LeBlanc out of his practised, world-weary melancholy. You want an abrasive edge to prove that his record company haven't just signed him to latch onto the current critical craze for the bland suburban folk of Fleet Foxes. Whereas Conor Oberst – another obvious reference – used to sing so crazed and histrionic you could forget his sallow youth, nothing it seems can shake Dylan LeBlanc out of his cosy country complacency....full text
PitchforkDylan LeBlanc was born in 1990-- a lifetime past the peak of FAME studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. That's where his dad, country singer James LeBlanc, regularly cut sessions and also where young Dylan got an early musical education. You don't hear much Aretha Franklin, Otis Redding, or Wilson Pickett in LeBlanc's assured debut, Paupers Field, though-- let alone many of the dozens of other country, soul, or rock acts that recorded down there. You do, however, hear a depth of experience somewhat at odds with LeBlanc's age, his sad voice prematurely scarred with regret and haunted by demons (drugs and alcohol reportedly played a role). This palpable darkness helps what could have otherwise been another run-of-the-mill Americana disc rise above anonymity, its evocative textures and atmosphere a welcome respite from too many milquetoast troubadours.
Paupers Field draws its name from the place where the poor were buried, and LeBlanc has likened his songs to headstones commemorating "things that have died in my life." Given such a heavy outlook, it's no shock the compelling intimacy of songs such as "5th Avenue Bar", "Emma Hartley", and "Death of Outlaw Billy John" resonates in a way that doesn't exactly foster passive background listening. A great storyteller, LeBlanc draws you deep into the world he's depicting-- you can practically smell the decay - but for those few minutes there's nowhere else you'd like to be....full text
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