Album Review: Langhorne Slim— Strawberry Mansion

Categories:  Music    The Arts
Wednesday, February 10th, 2021 at 12:55 PM
Album Review: Langhorne Slim— Strawberry Mansion by Teddy Rankin

Imagine this: you wake up in a field to the sound of a rooster’s crow. As you open your eyes and start to regain clarity, you notice that you’re gathered around a fire with a band of rustic-looking men wearing mud-caked boots and floppy hats. You ask one of them, who’s gnawing on a strand of wheat, where you are. The gentle prospector explains that you’ve been on the run from an existential danger, but you have finally reached safety. He hands you a warm tin cup steaming with fresh-pressed coffee. Just then, another man, who had been scribbling furiously in a leather-bound notebook, retrieves a weathered acoustic guitar from his makeshift tent. Just as his somehow familiar voice breaks through the natural hum of this borderless frontier, you are struck speechless by the beautiful amber rays of a new day’s morning sun.

An album for the traumatized masses, Langhorne Slim’s “Strawberry Mansion” aims to turn the page, if only for a moment, from the seemingly never-ending barrage of insanity and anxiety that has defined American life in recent memory. With a positivity that borders on naivety, Slim croons poetic platitudes in the style of folk legends such as Woody Guthrie and John Prine (plus an added splash of Randy Newman). While his brand of cowboy escapism may seem dated, Slim’s relevance is established through his lyricism, which is very much rooted in the present moment and political sphere. His Americana vibe and talent for unifying social commentary serve to fill a unique void in current culture – a strength that landed him a gig as Bernie Sanders’ opening act at campaign events in recent years. 

Alongside the now universally relatable struggle with COVID-19, Langhorne Slim’s tumultuous 2020 also included the loss of his Nashville home to a tornado. Despite misfortunes, he begins “Strawberry Mansion” with fiery optimism in the opening track, “Mighty Soul,” singing, “Some day the world might come and blow your house down / First a tornado then a plague / Let us use our hands to help and hold / Let us pour love into the mighty soul.” 

Meanwhile, a standout string of lyrics comes from “Alright to Hide,” a song dedicated to the rationalization of quarantining. Slim’s wit shines through as he playfully articulates the struggle of our shared experience: “Don’t be a dummy, honey / Come back inside / Even a fool like me can see / Sometimes it’s alright to hide / Call my Ma’ and tell her that I’m home with the cat / send her some pictures of us gettin’ fat.” In true Nashville folk tradition, the new-age troubadour juxtaposes his valid frustration of those not taking the coronavirus seriously against a lighthearted backdrop that blends complexity with simplistic reality. 

Langhorne Slim also demonstrates relatability in his mental health anthem “Panic Attack.” Between the stress of the pandemic, political turmoil and economic uncertainty, it seems there are fewer and fewer Americans left unaffected by mental illness. Slim hits the nail on the head and meets the moment with his quick wordplay that mimics anxious thought, rambling off pertinent lyrics like, “I called a healthcare professional / Wanna speak to someone confidentially / Don’t know just how I’m feelin’ / But I’m feelin’ feelings exponentially.” He goes on to detail a conversation with his therapist that is probably more accurate than we’d all like to admit, and brings it home with the track’s thesis statement: “I know that life’s worth livin’ / It’s the only thing worth livin’ for.” 

While his lyrics are well-versed in the details of personal and interpersonal struggles, Langhorne Slim is also contemplating the bigger picture. Like many people, Slim turns to spirituality when life presents difficulties, outlining his relationship with the big man upstairs in songs like “Morning Prayer” and “Something Higher.” The album’s title track, “Strawberry Mansion,” is actually an instrumental prelude to the main attraction, “The Mansion,” which describes our eventual promised land. Alluding to heaven, he says that despite all we have been through, and our human reactions to the adversities, “It’ll make you happy / to hear the whistle call / There is a strawberry mansion for all.” Reading into his metaphor, you can surmise that Slim is reassuring his listeners that our struggles on Earth will not go unrewarded in the great beyond.

As we return to the open field, our cowboy packs up his guitar and tent. He mounts a horse and leaves you with some parting wisdom before he and the others disappear into the fading sunset. He reminds you that the journey to this point has been difficult, but you have made it this far against all odds. The world may be scary and uncertain, but perhaps there is a unifying beauty in the fact that we are experiencing it together. Plus, anytime life’s curveballs seem too chaotic to handle, you can always listen to “Strawberry Mansion” by Langhorne Slim. 

Teddy Rankin is the Music Editor for The Spectator. He can be reached at

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