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Not that Dylan, our Dylan

“Songwriting costs it doesn’t come free. Ask Elliot Smith. Ask Richie Lee. Ask Mark Linkous. Ask Shannon Hoon to get up on stage and sing you a tune. Ever wonder why there aren’t more than ten songs on most albums? ‘Cause it’s a chore.” – Sun Kil Moon

Writing songs is hard. Now, you might be wondering how hard it was to come up with “I want candy,” or for that matter “Baby Shark, doot doot do doot do doot,” but those are not the kinds of songs of which I am speaking. Those are not the kinds of songs Dylan LeBlanc writes.

Dylan LeBlanc was a kid the last time I saw him. He was most likely too young to be in the bar where he was playing, and he was definitely too young to hone the pain and self-loathing of Townes Van Zandt’s Rake to a scapula’s edge, but that is exactly what he did. He was both prodigy and prodigal.

The prodigy part of him created 2010’s Pauper’s Field. On that record lay “If the Creek Don’t Rise,” a song of such quality that backing vocals from Emmy Lou Harris are more of a footnote than a headline. Pitchfork said of LeBlanc and the record that you can “hear a depth of experience somewhat at odds with LeBlanc’s age, his sad voice prematurely scarred with regret and haunted by demons”. LeBlanc drew comparisons to Neil Young, Fleet Foxes, and Conor Oberst (Bright Eyes), and he did it in a voice with an unmistakable North Alabama timbre: “Can’t” is unapologetically “Caint.”

The prodigal brought him home to Muscle Shoals after the release of 2012’s Cast the Same Old Shadow. Songwriting is hard. To write the kinds of songs that LeBlanc churns out, one must live, and he lived too hard and too fast. This return to his motherland gave LeBlanc a second, and most likely final, chance to turn the prodigy into a professional. The result was 2016’s aptly titled Cautionary Tale.

Cautionary Tale was and is still a standout record. LeBlanc stares the demons in the eye and appears to realize what he is looking into is a mirror. He goes face to face with the same Silver- Tongued Devil that Kris Kristofferson warned about, and while it is uncertain as to whether he beat the devil, he most assuredly lived to fight another day.

Dylan LeBlanc is currently on tour with a host of dates throughout the Southeast.


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