34 songs – 156 minutes
Wow. What a treat. After 28 years and 18 albums, Tim “Too Slim” Langford and his Taildraggers have released an absolute peach of a “best of” album, which also features three new tracks produced by noted Grammy-winner, Tom Hambridge (who has previously worked with the likes of Buddy Guy, George Thorogood, James Cotton and Joe Louis Walker, amongst many others). The other 31 songs on the two discs come from Langford’s previous recordings on the Underworld Records catalogue over the last 15 years.
Everything one would expect from a Too Slim and the Taildraggers anthology is present and correct, from the foot-tapping groove of “Blue Heart” to the gorgeous Blind Willie Johnson-influenced acoustic slide of “La Llorana”; from the slashing electric slide guitar licks of “Mississippi Moon” to the melodic lead guitar lines of “Last Train”. And it’s all topped off with that smokey, lived-in voice that sounds like a worn-down, beaten-up Mark Knopfler. Pleasingly, each song retains a sparkling vitality and energy, sounding as fresh today as when it was first released.
The three songs produced by (and co-written with) Hambridge are fitting additions to the Too Slim canon. The album opens with “Wishing Well”, a swampy blues-rocker that cautions the listener against the false prophets who only want to separate us from our money: “Throw your money in the wishing well. That’s what they tell you, that’s what they sell. Pay for heaven or go to hell. Throw your money in the wishing well.” As the song nimbly changes keys, Langford and guest guitarist Bob Britt swap sharply-taken solos. Slim’s vicious slide guitar takes centre stage on the upbeat rocker, “Little Gun Motel” and the ballad “Big Ole House” showcases a classic Too Slim lyric, anthropomorphising the feelings of a house where he and his former love used to live.
Other than the three new tracks (and Slim even co-wrote two of them with Hambridge), all the other songs were written by Langford, who has maintained a consistently high quality threshold over the years. He has never been a traditional dyed in the wool bluesman, introducing large chunks of blues-rock and dashes of Americana and country into the mix. What sets him apart from many other guitar-driven blues-rockers, however, is a sharp intelligence and an acute understanding of dynamics.
Lyrical topics range from the clever reversal of a traditional blues lament in “Good To See You Smile Again” (featuring the great Jimmy Hall on guest vocals) to the social commentary of “Shaking A Cup”; and from the humorous advice on how to write a song in “Three Chords” to the surrealism of “She Sees Ghosts” (a narrative about Too Slim’s pet dog and her spectral visions).
The first CD contains the more rock-influenced numbers. The second CD is a little more mellow. Both are joyful.
It’s pretty difficult to pick holes in this release. Anyone who is already a fan of Too Slim and the Taildraggers will want this album for the three new tracks (and as a reminder of some of the great stuff the band has released in the past). Anyone who isn’t yet a fan will become one when they hear this outstanding record. Unmissable.