Star rating – 8/10
I’m a sucker for a sad country song, especially when the angel voiced Emmylou Harris is featured on backing vocals. So I was drawn to Dylan LeBlanc when I heard about him this summer, and love his debut album ‘Paupers Field’. The 20 year old from Louisiana was at Manchester’s Deaf Institute on his first UK tour. This is a venue that lends itself to this sort of intimate, and emotion filled performance.
LeBlanc has certainly lived a lot for his years and had an eventful life so far. He has seen and done a lot of painful things, including suffering a nervous breakdown as a result of alcohol and drug addiction, and been in rehab as a result. Rumours also abound about his relative shooting someone, and he has loved and lost too.
Obviously bad for him – but good for us – because there’s nothing like searingly sad songs to uplift you and make you feel alive. He plays most of the beautiful tracks from his album, including ‘Low’ and ‘Emma Hartley’, some in a slightly slowed down way, with a drawling but beautiful voice nonetheless. The highlight of the evening for me was ‘If the Creek Don’t Rise’, although with a different feel without Emmylou to back him up. He is not a natural performer, with his unwashed hair, and reluctance to look at the audience. He looks vulnerable up on stage as he wrinkles his nose against the microphone when he sings like a frightened rabbit.
LeBlanc seems to be one of life’s vulnerable outsiders, even naming his record after the burial ground for people who could not afford to lie it the regular cemetery. We have one like that just around the corner from where I live, in the grounds of Withington Hospital where the poor souls from the old workhouse were interred many moons ago. It says a lot about him that he wanted to remember people like them. He finished with a cover of ‘Rake’ by Townes Van Zandt, and politely left the stage. And left the audience a bit richer for the experience, but still wondering how one so young can transmit so much pain so delicately and movingly.