LONG WAY FROM HOME, the previously unreleased earliest recordings from Leon Redbone and an exclusive vinyl-only reissue of Redbone’s classic debut album, ON THE TRACK, first released by Warner Bros in 1975, will be released on Jack White’s Third Man Records on December 2.
LONG WAY FROM HOME collects 18 tracks, the first eight of which are from a live performance at the end of 1972 at the University of Buffalo’s coffee house. Dave Benders recorded the remaining 10 songs for a 1972 radio session for the University’s WBFO. The compilation – comprising typically distinctive Redbone renditions of Tin Pan Alley and ragtime favorites – marks the first ever official release of these important early recordings, a milestone in the enigmatic singer-guitarist’s idiosyncratic creative development.
Have a look at this unseen footage of Redbone performing the album’s “My Walking Stick” live at the 1973 Buffalo Folk Festival:
ON THE TRACK is among the most remarkable debut albums of 1975 or any other year, a reverent and remarkably authentic revival of late 19th century and early 20th century popular music, spanning Roaring Twenties radio ditties, Depression-era ragtime, the folk-jazz of World War II, and still-sung favorites by songwriters like Irving Berlin, Hoagy Carmichael & Johnny Mercer, Fats Waller, Al Dubin & Harry Warren, Lonnie Johnson, and Jimmie Rodgers. The album – which sees Redbone accompanied by such studio luminaries as drummer Steve Gadd, percussionist Ralph MacDonald, and the great double bassist Milt Hinton – was an across-the-board success, reaching #83 on Billboard’s overall “Top LPs & Tape” chart amidst widespread critical acclaim. TMR’s exclusive vinyl reissue of ON THE TRACK comes in a 12″ single pocket, direct-to-board replica of the original Warner Bros. Records release, with classic cover art featuring a Chuck Jones illustration of Merrie Melodies star Michigan J. Frog.
Leon Redbone – who only recently retired from active recording and live performance – is a true original, a one of a kind singer, songwriter, and guitarist whose imitable interpretations of turn of the 20th century music have affirmed him as both Invaluable curator and resounding pop pioneer. Redbone began performing in Toronto more than four decades ago, earning the approval of such notables as Bob Dylan, The Lovin’ Spoonful’s John Sebastian, and famed producer John Hammond. Immediately iconic in his trademark Panama hat and dark sunglasses, Redbone proved an exceptional star, known far and wide via laconic performances on Saturday Night Live, The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, and A Prairie Home Companion. His remarkable work in the years since encompass a stunning range of creative output – 13 studio albums, sold out live performances around the globe, multiple TV themes, countless commercials, voiceovers, and a memorable duet with Zooey Deschanel of “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” featured in the 2003 holiday blockbuster, Elf. Throughout, Redbone’s greatest contribution has been his undying championship of America’s musical heritage, his singular talent introducing generation after generation to a still potent folk tradition.