Dylan Leblanc says that, when he was a kid, he felt his life was threatened by a coyote in Austin. He had just climbed part of a mountain and the intimidating animal emerged from the bushes, ready to confront him. Leblanc was standing next to a cliff and decided to talk before making any suspicious moves. “It’s you and me, so if you attack me, I’ll throw you off the cliff. I will not fall,” he said. There were a few minutes of tension, but the coyote was only trying to survive. He seemed to understand him: he left and there was no confrontation.
The story still haunts the musician to the point of having titled his last album Coyote. It is his fifth album and it emerges as a remarkable work of folk subtlety. Atmospheric and evocative, Coyote is a reflection of beauty and maturity in mid-tempo, in the best style of Jason Isbell or Ray LaMontagne, as can be easily heard on Dust, No Promises Broken or the song that gives the album its title. The work aspires to be conceptual: the songs unfold into the story of a man involved in the criminal underworld of Mexico and who struggles to find a way out of his battered existence. Apparently, it has autobiographical overtones.
Underneath this story lies the tension to survive. Perhaps Leblanc has never stopped feeling that survival is more a state of his life than an element that comes and goes. Since his encounter with the coyote, he has realized that he was able to do what it takes to survive in a dangerous situation with a dangerous animal, but the animal also knew it. Knowing how to survive, therefore, is knowing how to play your cards.
Leblanc knows how to play his cards within the Americana genre, a territory that, in these current times, has more to do with survival than with success. The Grammy spotlights never focus there, nor do trendsetting magazines, nor do television programs create content with it. It is a music that has a specific place, and that place does not have any gold mines. It seems more like a town lost in the middle of the vastness of the land, which only has survivors of a rich and vibrant legacy that matters less today than it did in the last century.
This survivor is one of the best news for the genre in the 21st century. And it is because he expands the possibilities of the territory with his style and highly recommendable albums. During his stop in Madrid he more than demonstrated it. Leblanc played at the Sala Clamores venue, where he gave a forceful recital of Americana that delves into the rock-infused past. Its instrumental passages made folk rock travel like a mountainous river flow, full of wild and colorful natural elements. It was pure inspiration for wandering hearts.
In view of his results on stage, Leblanc stands out as a folk agitator somewhere between Neil Young and Ryan Adams, with a persona built on a hypnotic voice and a fabulous sense of codes. He nurtures retro aesthetics, electric postulates of the folk-rock countercultural old guard, and enough charisma to know that what he does, he does well and does not expire, precisely because he does it well. Because the songs that invite us to grab the car and hit the road with little more than a blanket, or to live for a while on a mountain, will never die, especially if our existence is increasingly about being locked up in offices and paying just to have our car parked outside our front door. Furthermore, in his Madrid gig, he surprised the audience when, within this marked sixties and seventies line, Leblanc revealed himself as an outstanding student of the heritage — never sufficiently praised — of Gene Clark. Folk attuned to a Baroque kind of pop that made autumn grow in one’s soul. It is a wondrous thing within the reach of just a few.
As he has demonstrated, survival in Dylan Leblanc has several faces, different styles with which to show himself as an intelligent and mountain animal, a lover of full moons and abundant sunrises. We are talking about a thirtysomething who is demonstrating that his music not only stands on its own as a precious treasure in the territory of Americana, but that it definitely improves one’s existence.
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