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Pop Music Reviews : Where Was Leon When The Lights Went Out?

Where better to be when the lights went out than at a Leon Redbone concert? When a power outage hit the Roxy during his show on Tuesday, Redbone just continued--hardly missing a beat or a quip--as the Roxy staff brought out candles to illuminate the proceedings. And why not? Redbone’s whole style and white-coat, white-hat, white-bucks Southern gentleman/con-man persona exist in a time that, if not predating electricity, predates the necessity of electricity.

As he has been doing for more than 15 years now, Redbone evoked that era so authentically that the club should have been turning at 78 r.p.m. And still somehow the show was as hip as a digital sampler--which is a good analogy for Redbone. He’s sampled the music and culture of a whole nearly lost time, serving up the jazz-pop-blues of the late 1800s and early 1900s with incredible attention to detail.

But he’s also given it a delightfully devilish spin, underscoring the way that broken-heart tunes and good-time blues like “Right or Wrong” and “Diddy Wah Diddy” can ring at least as true as any contemporary songs, and showing that the pre-"Lum and Abner” exchanges with bass saxophonist Ralph Norton are no less funny (or corny) today than they were back then.

Timeless? As Redbone himself said in encouraging the crowd to sing along with “Polly Wolly Doodle”: “This song’s more than 100 years old, so you’ve had plenty of time to learn it.”

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