Our Daily Bread 319: Larry “Ratso” Sloman ‘Stubborn Heart’

April 9, 2019


Album Review: Dominic Valvona




Larry “Ratso” Sloman ‘Stubborn Heart’

(Lucky Number) 5th April 2019


Schmoozing with the very best of them over the decades, both as a receptacle and fountain of inspiration in his own right, author-lyricist Larry “Ratso” Sloman’s knockabout career trajectory has taken as many blows as successes. Lifted straight from Rock’s Back Pages, Sloman, who resembles Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan as rumpled gumshoes with a penchant for filing pathos in the style of gonzo pulp, vividly documented the counter-cultural heroes of the 1960s and 70s for a litany of titles, including, when it mattered, Rolling Stone.

Most notably encapsulating the whirlwind adulation and reverence of Dylan-on-tour, Sloman’s self-explanatory entitled On The Road With Bob Dylan account of the troubadour’s 1975 Rolling Thunder tour remains both a template and benchmark in music writing. In that same sphere of influence, rubbing shoulders with luminaries such as the already mentioned Cohen but also Lou Reed and Joan Baez (who anointed the scruffy-attired writer with that Midnight Cowboy “Ratso” nickname), Sloman collaborated with a number of doyens, writing lyrics for John Cale and Rick Derringer.

A biography specialist-investigator though, he’s also both principally and co-written books on the baby-boomer generation antagonist and revolutionary figure Abbie Hoffman (Steel The Dream), the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ frontman Anthony Kiedis (Scar Tissue), and with magic historian William Kalush, a controversial propound account of the life-and-death of Houdini (The Secret Life Of Houdini). With his star in ascendance this year – that co-authored escapologist investigation is heading to the big screen alongside a Martin Scorsese directed documentary of the fabled Days Of Thunder – Sloman has decided, in his seventies, to finally take the plunge and release his debut long player, Stubborn Heart.

Imbued by those past and present relationships and attachments he sagacious grizzled narrator borrows Dylan and Cohen’s (well at least one of them won’t be using it anymore) signature burr and half-spoken wisdom; using it well to unburden himself; opening up that old, stubborn heart of his to the overriding power of love…or something along those lines. Though the tropes are well worn, Sloman’s patter still rings true, the disheveled bon vivant parading his wisdom in a semi-confessional, semi-elder statesman style of liberation.





Every song on this album has a story, a certain providence, with the first third of this songbook featuring a cast of more contemporary soul mates. The relaxed smoky lounge smooching opener ‘I Want Everything’, which features the ariel alluring ache of the Lebanese polymath and leading progenitor of Middle Eastern electronica (as a founder of the Soapkills duo) Yasmine Hamdan, indolently journeys from youthful “world domination” exuberance and hubris to the self-realization in maturity “that love IS the drug”, and that “sacrifices must be made.” The elegantly romantic, venerable-tinged, “star-crossed” ‘Our Lady Of Light’ features Nick Cave, in The Boatman’s Call era fine fettle, dueting with Sloman on a yearning song of hypnotic worship, chained empirically to the power of their muse, whilst the sun-dappled E Street Band lilted ‘Caribbean Sunset’ features the wafting smoky-jazz blues saxophone of Paul Shapiro and dueted soul of the singer/songwriter and violinist Imani Coppola. Though my copy didn’t credit anyone on the album’s country Stones waning finale to a false deity, ‘Sad Eyed Lady Of The Lowlands’, this Western mythological Gram Parson’s like gospel-country hymn features (more or less) a revolving chorus of guest vocalists.

Talking of myth and its making, the often somber remorseful and venerable ‘Dying On The Vine’ was originally conceived in a hotel room off Sunset Boulevard; the result of trading lines with Tom Waits and Chuck E. Weiss we’re told. The angelic swoon of Cohen co-writer, producer and back-up singer Sharon Robinson can be heard on this sanctified plaint; that swoon going a long way in creating the right mood of grizzled exoneration at that last chance saloon, Robinson’s support came in exchange for Sloman writing the preface to On Tour With Leonard Cohen.

Night creeper Dr. John like allusions with the “children of the night” recording from a phooey Dracula movies, Muscle Shoals Stones and bowing saxophone elegy follow as Sloman offers a myriad of sage-y metaphors and analogy: Some offer consolation, others, redemption.

Wearing it well, Sloman embodies the sagacious storytelling and voice of his Boomer generation peers with relish. Like a character from his own back pages, the bon vivant of cocktail and yacht lounge blues and candid romantic troubadour rock proves it’s never too late to add another proverbial string to, an already stretched, bow. This Stubborn Heart is one classy affair.





Words: Dominic Valvona

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