If you’ve been to a Langhorne Slim live show, you know it’s a rowdy, lively time. Whether on his own or with the help of a band, singer-songwriter Sean Scolnick careens between songs and stories, telling tales of his times meeting the most random people at bars and then spinning yarns about his wild and colorful upbringing. These are the kinds of anecdotes that could fill multi-volume autobiographies, but instead, Scolnick keeps writing heartfelt and deeply personal songs about his experiences.
At least, until he didn’t anymore.
Following the release of 2017’s Lost at Last Vol. 1, Scolnick’s inner demons were getting the best of him, eating away at his muse and forcing addictions back into his life. After a long period of feeling creatively drained and friends not recognizing him anymore, he finally checked into rehab.
With a global pandemic forcing him into isolation, Scolnick started slowly approaching songwriting again, sometimes forcing himself to approach his craft even if he didn’t want to. Yet once he started going, the songs came, even writing the new tune “Panic Attack” while in the middle of a panic attack. The resulting full-length effort, Strawberry Mansion, reveals the Langhorne Slim moniker at its most stripped-down, vulnerable, and raw.
“Some folks don’t believe nothin’ / Till it’s in the palm of their hand,” Scolnick sings on “House on Fire”, and now, Strawberry Mansion is in ours.
To help mark the occasion, Scolnick chatted with PopMatters to pick out his Five Favorite “Quarantine Essentials”. After nearly a year of lockdown, Scolnick gives us a look into his musical comfort food, which spans everything from hip-hop to old-school blues to (of course) classic country songwriting legends. We all may still be quarantined for the time being, but with records and tracks like these at our side, we feel just a tinge more comfortable and fulfilled.
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Roger Miller – “What Are Those Things (With Big Black Wings)?”
“I thought I knew most of Roger Miller’s music but hadn’t heard this one until about a year ago, and it’s a damn treasure. My longtime bandmate, friend, and eternal flame Malachi DeLorenzo sent me a cover of it that he recorded with Izaak Opatz and it shook me immediately. From there, I discovered the Roger Miller version (it was written by A.L. Owens & Dallas Frazer) and have listened to it more times in the last year than I’ve listened to most songs in my entire life.
There isn’t a wasted word. It captures the feeling of loss that so many have sung about so many times, but to me, it feels like the first time anyone’s ever done it. It’s heartbreaking and joyous at the same time. It’s one of the best songs I’ve ever heard. Play it loud. You may smile, or you may weep, but you’ll feel it, and you’ll feel it deep.”
De Wayon – “Malekaki na nzela”
“I discovered this song about 15 years ago on a compilation called Congo Classics. It’s remained a dear sweet friend to me all these years later. I don’t understand a single word but it feels like the soundtrack to my soul.”
Leonard Cohen – “Did I Ever Love You” (2014)
“I first heard this song driving around Europe with my dear friend and tour manager Alan Morgan. About halfway through a long and weird journey, we started listening to Cohen exclusively. This one remains one of my (and I think Alan’s) favorites. It’s achingly beautiful and strange like the great poet himself. For me, Leonard has a line to the source like no other. He breaks my heart and puts it back together in a single song. He’s a Jewish Buddha of the highest order.”
Wu-Tang Clan – Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) (1993)
“It still hits as hard as it did the first time I heard it. I ain’t the first white boy from suburbia to love Wu-Tang and I won’t be the last. Wu-Tang forever.”
Everything by Mississippi Records
Mississippi Records is my favorite record shop in the world. Eric Isaacson (owner/operator/musical guardian angel) is akin to a modern-day Alan Lomax or Harry Smith in my mind. Not sure if he’d hate that comparison or not. Eric’s knowledge of music from around the globe is beyond anyone I’ve ever known. He’s a man without genre or boundaries. Every compilation I’ve bought from Mississippi Records contains my favorite songs that I’ve never heard before. It honestly never ceases to blow my mind. Left of center folk/blues/soul/country/punk/ambient etc. I’m on a Mississippi Records subscription where I send ’em 100 bucks or so and get these gems dropped at my doorstep. I never know when they’re gonna come, but they always show up at the perfect time. It’s pretty much all I listen to when I’m at home in Nashville.