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Double Time

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Album Review

Leon Redbone followed up his debut long-player On the Track (1975) with Double Time (1977), an equally enchanting, if not somewhat eclectic blend, of jazz, folk, blues and pop standards — all in Redbone's undeniably distinct throaty baritone. While the tunes may be familiar, these renderings are steeped in the artist's unique sensibilities. The results are uniformly ingenious and commence with a New Orleans ragtime flavored interpretation of Blind Boy Blake's dirty "Diddy Wa Diddie" blues. Augmenting Redbone's acoustic guitar is an extended cast of session stalwarts and a host of other musical notables — such as Milt Hinton (bass), Jonathan Dorn (tuba), Vic Dickenson (trombone) and Jo Jones (drums). Don McLean (banjo) sits in, supplying his criminally underutilized instrumental versatility on the endearing revamp of Jimmie Rodgers' "Mississippi Delta Blues." The decidedly demented reading of "Sheik of Araby" is nothing short of inspired insanity. Redbone incorporates a Screamin' Jay Hawkins-esque persona belting out a variety of hoots, snorts, howls and hob-gobbles set behind a hot-steppin' fret board flurry à la Django Reinhardt. Among the album's most affective numbers is a cover of a second Rodgers' penned and similarly titled "Mississippi River Blues." This is one of the more intimately emotive performances on the record and features another jazz legend, Yusef Lateef (soprano sax) — who provides a sweet understated counterbalance to Redbone's dogged delivery. The track is likewise enhanced with the additional textures of the orally generated "throat tromnet" [read: a cross between a trombone and trumpet] contrasting his lyrical yodels and warbles. Also worthy of mention is the languid ragtime of the Jelly Roll Morton classic "Winin' Boy Blues." Bob Greene's ramblin' piano inflections aptly complement the vocals — which have been electronically manipulated to reproduce a sound likened to that of a vintage victrola. Rounding out the stack is the sublimely reverent "If We Never Meet Again This Side of Heaven." The backing harmonies are courtesy of the incomparable Dixie Hummingbirds whose rich blend oozes from behind the minimalist lead and acoustic piano accompaniment. Potential enthusiasts are well served to begin their discovery of Leon Redbone here.

Biography

Born: August 26, 1949

Genre: Pop

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

While his gravelly baritone and omnipresent fedora, dark glasses, and Groucho Marx mustache made him one of the more distinct and recognizable characters in popular music, little is known about the neo-vaudeville crooner Leon Redbone. Throughout his career, he steadfastly refused to divulge any information about his background or personal life; according to legend, Redbone's desire to protect his privacy was so intense that when...
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Double Time, Leon Redbone
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