Dylan LeBlanc On Unknown Sundays 08-2016

If you’ve been following the mixed-folk scene (I say this because Folk has managed to mix into alternative, alternative country, blues, rock, rockabilly and more over the past eight years [remember this article was originally written in 2016]) then you’ve probably heard of Dylan LeBlanc. However, I can honestly say that even with the likes of Emmylou Harris appearing on his debut album, and the sincerest accolades on his second album and touring with Alabama Shakes, Calexico, Lucinda Williams, The Drive-By Truckers and even Bruce Springsteen, that I had never really listened to a solid album. That ended this week.

Cautionary Tale is a beautiful, light alternative-folk-blues record that has a bleak sense but a humbled, mumbled melody delivery that helps him rise above the din of the crowd. “Look How Far We’ve Come” certainly lets the listener know that he has a knack for the complete musical craft, and treats every song like the very tale of caution the album suggests. There’s typical guitar work but it’s the backing of violins and strings and piano that subtly attach themselves brilliantly and naturally to each song.

The Shreveport artist handles Americana song writing with a depth and classic feel that reminds one of Neil Young with the despair delivery of Bob (yes, that Dylan). There’s a darker side there, too, along with a few voice changes that he can lean on for special ocassions, too. And, apparently, that dark side was not far from the celebrated truth that nearly destroyed him. At an early age he went from Applebee’s server to the next Neil Young. That’s not something you hear every day. In fact, I never heard it—and I adore Neil Young probably above most. So, what happened? This straight from his webpage: He slipped into a blur of booze and self-doubt. Exhausted and damaged at just 23-years-old, Dylan came home to Muscle Shoals, Alabama to write a new life for himself. In comes Cautionary Tale to save a promising career with the friends and music backbone of Ben Tanner (Alabama Shakes) and John Paul White (formerly of Civil Wars) to push away that self doubt. Mission accomplished for sure.

Pauper’s Field and Cast the Same Old Shadow are haunting records reaching back in his catalog, and I certainly implore you to do give them a listen only after you feel the revenant of Cautionary Tale. These are records done with hints of tunnel vision and blasts of genuine talent that does dazzle. Even articles written in review of these two recordings mention “holding back,” which resemble more of the self doubt, mentioned by Dylan. No question that these two early records are at a dangerous age, considering their magnitude and the adorning musical pressures. That makes them all the more important in foundation, revealing so-so much vocal by vocal, piece by piece, and track by track.

Give Dylan LeBlanc more than your earful attention. Give him the benefit of the doubt that he has a new embodiment of music to draw from, and a desire to bury the doubtful demons and use them like a determined Ryan Adams. I know you’ll be deeply moved, eagerly engaged, and pleasantly surprised by a rising talent–rather than the supposed second coming…although–I’m considering this the early warning shots to a controlled, polished greatness to come.



Dylan LeBlanc Albums in my collection:   Cast the Same Old Shadow (2010), Cautionary Tale  (2015)

This “Unknown Sundays” was done back on February 21 of 2016, and I was a year late to Cautionary Tale.  Renegade in 2019 was a record that I felt had all the same makings of Cautionary Tale without the grit that drew me to the article in the first place.  It did seem to be made with a alt-pop sensibility, but that probably comes with more production being available or attempted.  Still a good record, well received and in the wheelhouse expected with creativity still in tact.  I just recently listened to his EP covers called “Past Times,” where he takes on Dylan, The Rolling Stone, Glen Campbell, Buffalo Springfield, and Led Zeppelin.  The choices are definitely what you would expect given his style.  The covers do have his distinctive voice and kept close in arrangement to the originals, but for me it’s the JJ Cale “Sensitive Kind” that is the stunner here.  He’s still on my radar because there’s that alt-folk groove arrangement that still draws me in and this feeling that there’s going to be a tale told in maturity somewhere down the line that might cast a completely different light on the shadows of a decade of work.    – Mark Kulgowski  [April 30th 2023]

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