Band: Andrew Duhon, Dylan LeBlanc
Date: Sunday, Jan. 24, at 7 p.m.
Venue: Callaghan’s Irish Social Club, 916 Charleston St., www.callaghansirishsocialclub.com
Tickets: $30 (limited number), available at Callaghan’s
Callaghan’s regularly features diverse live musical entertainment, frequently attracting modern notables from the singer-songwriter scene. The venue’s music-hungry patrons and informal listening room environment seem to create a positive experience for touring singer-songwriters, who tend to return regularly.
Andrew Duhon and Dylan LeBlanc are quite familiar with Callaghan’s. These two have quickly gathered local fans with their honest song composition and live delivery. Now they will be sharing the bill for a special night, with LeBlanc opening with a catalogue of originals that has critics hailing him as the next big thing.
After months of promoting his latest effort, “Cautionary Tale,” this highly anticipated album is now available to the public. Even before the album dropped, Rolling Stone was calling LeBlanc an “Artist You Need to Know” and his album one of the “35 Most Anticipated Albums of 2016.” All the while, LeBlanc is hoping these honors have a positive effect on his career.
“It’s nice, you know,” he said. “I just hope it helps us sell some records and helps more people get in touch with us. That’s really what those things area all about. They help people discover the music.”
LeBlanc recalls standing in front of the radio as a toddler and being “enamored.” Growing up, he split his time between his mother in Shreveport, Louisiana, and his father in Muscle Shoals. His regular visits with his musician father were a rudimentary musical education. When his father was on stage, LeBlanc watched the power of music as it moved the crowd. When his father was doing sessions at the iconic Fame Studios, LeBlanc learned studio work ethic.
“You know, when you’re young, you look at your father like he’s the biggest hero, and you want to be just like him,” LeBlanc said. “It just looked like fun. It looked like he was having fun, and everybody else would look like they were having fun. People would dance, and you could tell that it was making people feel good.”
When the young artist was searching for a stylistic foundation, he was drawn to the world of country music. He introduced his own brand of country on his 2010 debut, “Paupers Field,” an album portraying a modern country troubadour with one foot in the past and one in the future.
LeBlanc’s poetic lyrics delivered in dreamy alto vocals were gently placed on a warm, mellow field of acoustic guitar. Solo touring and opening spots with Lucinda Williams and The Civil Wars helped expand his listening audience.
“Cast the Same Old Shadow” came next. While this album was more electric than his debut, it maintained the traditional country troubadour attitude. Even though the mainstream country crowd seemed to ignore LeBlanc, pop country’s reactionary movement of country fans and musicians have embraced it, and he would not have it any other way. He describes his style of country as being “far removed” from the sounds of the mainstream.
“I know that I haven’t really enjoyed anything on the radio for a really long time,” LeBlanc said. “I haven’t heard anything good that I thought was a great song. I think it’s kind of getting steadily worse, you know. It’s more of a factory than it is anything else. It’s more of a formula now. It just seems like they’re just going through the motions just to make some money.”
For “Cautionary Tale,” LeBlanc returned to his roots in a number of ways. First, he returned to Muscle Shoals to record with Ben Tanner. While Tanner is well known as the keyboardist for Alabama Shakes, he has also built a reputation for being a notable Shoals engineer.
On “Cautionary Tale,” the partnership revived the acoustic-based sound of his debut. LeBlanc describes its title-track as “a song for everybody,” in which the young artist presents the theory that everyone goes through two struggles every day. The first verse concentrates on inner struggles. According to LeBlanc, people experience a daily conflict between their true feelings and ideas that come from being “programmed and conditioned.”
“It’s different to sort of look at it like, ‘This could be the wrong direction that I’m going,’” LeBlanc explained. “Maybe what … the mass media and the mass public say isn’t 100 percent correct. So, the second verse is about the everyday struggle that most people go through. It’s the outer struggle, if you will.”
Throughout the album, LeBlanc’s alto vocals resonate on each track and his lyrics are a perfect mix of passion and insight. “Cautionary Tale” brings the listener a collection of emotional ballads that could be considered the masterwork of the current indie country scene. Whether performed solo or with a full band, the acoustic foundation guarantees the power of each song will not be lost.
Ultimately, LeBlanc hopes the music on this album will have a positive effect on its audience. However, he also hopes listeners will discover an underlying message.
“I hope they get the message that we should be more aware,” LeBlanc said. “I think it’s about awareness and balance. There’s a lot of balance in this record. I think that if people can take away that, then it would be great.”
LeBlanc has a busy year of performances schedules, including one on “CBS This Morning,” but he’ll also be promoting the new album with his first headlining tour as well as an opening act for Anderson East. All this attention is quite new for LeBlanc, and it seems to be just the beginning of something big.
“A lot of things have been happening that have never happened before for me,” LeBlanc said. “It seems to be going in that direction. I couldn’t be any happier.”