Review of "Anthology" by New York Writer Dave Rubin. Available now at The Too Slim and the Taildragger website.
Tim “Too Slim” Langford with his Taildraggers roared out of Spokane, Washington in 1986 like a man with his hair on fire. The virtuoso guitarist, passionate singer and poetic songwriter remains possessed to play the blues his way with blockbusting power and the talent to create timeless music like his life depended on it. 28 years, countless emotionally draining shows and 18 albums later find him with an ongoing recorded legacy. Showcased on his monumental 2-disc release are 34 select songs, including three new tracks produced by noted Grammy winner Tom Hambridge.
The sumptuous extravaganza opens with the hypnotic swamp-rocker “Wishing Well” co-written by Langford and Hambridge. A cautionary fable about false prophets has Langford intoning “Money counted, the tent comes down, desperation waits in another town. A common form of deception and lies, the devil hides in a preacher’s disguise” followed by the warning “Throw your money in the wishing well, that’s what he tells you, that’s what he sells. Pray for heaven, but go to hell…” as he and ace Nashville picker Bob Britt trade scorching solos. “Little Gun Motel” by Hambridge and Texas bluesman Jim Suhler rocks a riotous, heavy boogie shuffle as Tim “Too Slim” Langford proves he is a reigning slide wizard by frying his strings while revealing with a wink “If you ever stop in Memphis, Tennessee, there’s a place to lay your head where you don’t get no sleep. Street light girls, working hard, down Elvis Presley Boulevard. You can kiss them all night and they won’t tell, checking into the ‘Little Gun Motel’.” The third new cut, “Big Ole House”, by Langford and Hambridge, is a haunting ballad of lost love with Langford exposing palpable regret with his blues-worn vocal “Big ole house needs your big ole heart, when you gonna track an empty vow. Just a bunch of walls and empty halls, I need your loving in this big ole house” as the sensitive fills of pianist Jon Coleman and the entire rhythm section intertwine in a stunning innovation to the Taildragger sound.
Every archival track is as vital as the day it was recorded. “Stoned Again” has Langford sliding and slithering at his nastiest on a “smoking” shuffle groove verging on combustion. “Wash My Hands” rides a memorable hard rocking riff about finding salvation via “I wash my hands in the muddy Mississippi.” Langford “raps” his rawboned bio on “Cowboy Boot”, a clanging, big bore rocker with the wry hook “I got no more money in my cowboy boot.”
The Norteno-flavored funky “Mexico” is a jovial tribute to the virtues of visiting our southern neighbor for relaxation. Chunky funk-rock on “Been Through Hell” finds Langford preaching the sage advice “To get a little heaven you gotta make it through hell.” The cathartic slow blues “Good to See You Smile Again” boasts a soaring solo from Langford to complement Jimmy Hall’s heartfelt vocals. “Everybody’s Got Something” with guest soul singer Curtis Salgado is an uplifting rock “spiritual” featuring a worthwhile message couched in an infectious groove. Reminiscent of Blind Willie Johnson’s classic “Dark is the Night, Cold is the Ground”, “La Llorona” is an unaccompanied slide instrumental carrying immense, unforgettable emotional weight.
Tim Langford has that rare ability to make believable every note he sings and plays, along with the veracity of each tale, tall or otherwise. Now a resident of Nashville, he is currently being honored along with six other artists in the Country Music Hall of Fame and in a prominent exhibit at the airport. His exposure in “Opryland” can only further the cause of spreading his musical “gospel” to a wider audience.
Dave Rubin, KBA recipient in Journalism