Dylan LeBlanc - Paupers Field

Rhian Daly 09/09/2010

Rating: 4.5/5

World-weariness isn't a quality that could be ascribed to most 20 year olds, but then Dylan LeBlanc isn't much like his peers. Growing up in Louisiana, the young Dylan started penning songs aged “11 or 12”, writing to feel better and free himself of the feeling that he was “sinking into darkness”. Over time, he's managed to assemble Paupers Field, a gorgeous debut album full of yearning and darkness.

“Are you feeling alright? Are you feeling low?” asks LeBlanc on first track 'Low' in a way that lets you know he understands, he knows what you're going through because he's caught up in the same pattern of agonizing emotion himself. It's comforting, an Americana lullaby for a heartbroken youth and a perfect opening statement of intent from our gloomy protagonist.

There's rumours that legendary country singer Emmylou Harris has provided guest vocals on the record and whilst we're not entirely sure which songs (if any) she appears on, whoever it is lending their pipes to 'If The Creek Don't Rise' does a stirling job of reflecting LeBlanc's sorrow. These anonymous female vocals pop up elsewhere on the record, most notably on the more upbeat 'Changing of the Seasons' - a kind of halfway point in the album where LeBlanc appears to be getting over the girl he's been telling us about.

The majority of Paupers Field though is still shrouded in that oxymoron of gentle darkness. 'Tuesday Night Rain' is a heartwrencher, a stomach-twisting realisation that “all the liquor in the world couldn't save me/From all the pain you left in the dark”. It's beautifully orchestrated, much like the whole album, to betray the lyrics' meanings through melodies and chords. '5th Avenue Blues', apart from sharing a similar guitar line to Johnny Flynn's 'Tickle Me Pink', is a whiskey-soaked resolution to carry on even when all you want is to break down, mope around and stay in bed all day.

Running the emotional minefield that is Dylan LeBlanc's first LP might seem like a trip that's overcast and bound to leave you with your own personal cloud floating above your head but there's something strangely soothing about Paupers Field. Maybe it's the way he presents his tales of woe to us as just that - tales. Like a good book, LeBlanc draws you in with his exquisite narrative, makes it feel real, urges you to keep on going until you reach the end. And then when that finish line's been reached... well, it just feels so natural to go right back to beginning and do it all again.