Leon Redbone, 'Long Way From Home: Early Recordings'
A figure of indeterminate origin – Cyprus by way of Canada or possibly Philadelphia, according to two accounts – Leon Redbone sang like an old soul when he was a very young man. This double album, on Jack White's Third Man label, of stark 1972 and '73 tapes – a solo coffeehouse gig at the University of Buffalo; a studio session at the school's radio station – catches Redbone in his early twenties, excavating the Roaring Twenties and Great Depression stories of Jimmie Rodgers, Irving Berlin and Robert Johnson in a nasally antique croon. Redbone's debut album for Warner Bros., On the Track (also reissued by Third Man), was a sumptuously archaic affair featuring truly old-school cats like jazz violinist Joe Venuti. But on Long Way From Home, in the simplicity of setting and Redbone's defiantly retrospective passion, you hear an artist already entirely at home with plainspoken romance and hard-luck stories, written by very old and dear friends.