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Sleepy Labeef Tomorrow Never Comes (CD)

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(M.C.Records) 14 tracks - official US re-issue (CD-R) Originally released in 2000, this was... more

Sleepy Labeef: Tomorrow Never Comes (CD)

(M.C.Records) 14 tracks - official US re-issue (CD-R)

Originally released in 2000, this was Sleepy LaBeef's first studio recording in over four years. Tomorrow Never Comes is a genuine portrait of Americana music. Songs include Too Much Monkey Business, Wipeout, The Blues Come Around & Detour. Maria Muldaur duets with Sleepy on two tracks as well. Sleepy LaBeef still plays over 200 hundred shows a year to his dedicated following around the world.

Sleepy LaBeef's new album is called "Tomorrow Never Comes," and the legendary singer and guitarist always performs as if it might not. Whether he's on stage or in the studio, he doesn't like to plan the future-even the next hour-preferring to go with the inspiration of the present. And that's why, even at age 65, he stills sounds so spontaneous-as if he were discovering this music at the same time we are. "I don't like to work from a list of songs," he explains. "I like to step up to the microphone and govith the spur of the moment. I'd hate to get to where a show sounds like a repeat of last night or an album sounds like a repeat of the last one. You have to make it sound like it's living today; otherwise you might as well give them an old record and let them listen to that."
That's how it went during the sessions for this album. Sleepy, who knows literally thousands of songs, had some ideas, but he also accepted suggestions from his producer Mark Carpentieri, from his guest vocalist Maria Muldaur and from his band members.

The result is a mind-boggling mix of rockabilly, hardcore honky-tonk, Kansas City blues, bluegrass, gospel, early rock'n'roll and swamp-pop. For unlike most roots-rock musicians, Sleepy isn't content with one style or even a mixture of styles. He wants to sing real blues and real country, but he also wants to mix them into rock'n'roll. He doesn't want to leave anything out. "I grew up listening to Hank Williams, Howlin' Wolf, Bill Monroe, Tommy Dorsey, Muddy Waters, Bob Wills, Roy Acuff and Big Joe Turner," he says. "To me, you can get the same feeling from a Hank Williams honky-tonk song as you can from an old gut-bucket blues by Howlin' Wolf. They're similar and you can combine them into rock'n'roll, but sometimes it's good to just have the real thing itself. "If I'm going to play rock'n'roll, I'll call it rock'n'roll. But if I'm going to do the blues, I'll do a real blues song, and if I'm going to do country, I'll do a real country song. There's no point in camouflaging it by calling it something else. A lot of what they call new country is nothing but old rock'n'roll. I don't think you should call it something else to make it acceptable. That's why I do all types, and I call it what it is."

Sleepy was born and raised in Smack6ver Arkansas, but at the age of 18, he moved to Houston. It was there he broke into the music business, first on the Houston Jamboree radio show (where he met the like-minded Elvis Presley) and then recording for Poppy Daily at Starday Records (alongside George Jones). For most of the '50s and early '60s, Sleepy worked the Gulf Coast circuit of East Texas and Louisiana.
So it makes sense that his new album contains songs from Houston ("Sometimes" by Sleepy's old piano player Gene Thommason) and the South Louisiana swamps (Slim Harpo's "Roinin' in My Heart" and Tony Joe White's "Poke Salad Annie"). "Poke Salad Annie is what we call Louisiana Cajun rock'n'roll," Sleepy explains. "I grew up down in Arkansas, which isn't too far from Louisiana. So when Tony Joe wrote about frogs, snakes and gators, I knew just what he was talking about. He deals with the rural country life; that's why I like his songs. Elvis did that song, but we were doing it in our shows long before he ever came out with it. I like our version better. Dave Pomeroy's funky bass solo is great on that."

Both "Raining in My Heart" and the old gospel standard "Will the Circle Be Unbroken," feature vocals by Maria Muldaur. Mark suggested that we bring her in," Sleepy notes. "She sings good harmony and she has a lot of soul in her delivery. 'Midnight at the Oasis' may have been her big hit, but her heart has always been in the blues. She suggested both of those songs, and they were good chokes. I'm always glad to sing some hand-clapping, foot-stomping gospel." In 1964, Sleepy moved to Nashville where he recorded for Don Law at Columbia and then for Shelby Singleton at Plantation and Sun Records. Sleepy had the biggest hit of his career in 1911 with "Blackland Farmer" on Plantation. On his new album, he revisits those days by remaking an old Plantation single, Chuck Berry's "Too Much Monkey Business." This new album also reflects Sleepy's never-dying love of hardcore country by remaking songs by Hank Williams (1947's "The Blues Come Around"), Spade Cooley (1946's "Detour"), Ernest Tubb (1945's "Tomorrow Never Comes"), and the Monroe Brothers (1936's "Rolling in My Sweet Baby's Arms"). He also sings tunes by lesser-known country artists such as the Bailes Brothers ("I Want To Be Loved") and Jerry Wallace ("Take My Heart"). On the Williams, Monroe and Owens tunes, Sleepy demonstrates how easily straight-ahead country can be transformed into rockabilly with a jumpy guitar riff and an aggressive drummer. But on the other four songs, he proves just how good a honky-tonk singer he can be, by digging deep into his big, rumbling baritone to find the heartache at the bottom.

"A good country song can be just as down-to-earth as a blues song," Sleepy declares. "It talks about something that all the people can relate to in a way that they can understand. I especially liked the Bailes Brothers, because I grew up listening to them on the Louisiana Hayride. They sounded so good that even if a song didn't have the strongest lyric, they could make it believable. They had moved on by the time I played the Louisiana Hayride, but I was still proud to be on the same show they had been on." On the other hand, a good blues song can tell a story and define a character as well as a country song. For this album, Sleepy has picked two songs by his favorite blues singer, Big Joe Turner-"Low Down Dog" and "Honey Hush." On the latter number, Sleepy gives his regular road band a chance to solo and strut its stuff-that's Jerry Cavanaugh on harmonica and drums, Gator McKinley on slap bass, David Hughes on piano, and Sleepy himself on guitar. "I've always been a big fan of Big Joe Turner," Sleepy says. "He had that big, big voice, but he had such an easy delivery. There was no strain to him. That's what I aim for." That's what Sleepy delivers. (Geoffrey Himes)

Article properties: Sleepy Labeef: Tomorrow Never Comes (CD)

  • Interpret: Sleepy Labeef

  • Album titlle: Tomorrow Never Comes (CD)

  • Genre Rock'n'Roll

  • Year of publication 2000
  • Label MC RECORDS

  • Artikelart CD

  • EAN: 0660355733628

  • weight in Kg 0.1
LaBeef, Sleepy - Tomorrow Never Comes (CD) CD 1
01 Detour Sleepy Labeef
02 Too Much Monkey Business Sleepy Labeef
03 I Want To Be Loved Sleepy Labeef
04 Will The Circle Be Unbroken Sleepy Labeef
05 The Blues Come Around Sleepy Labeef
06 Tomorrow Never Comes Sleepy Labeef
07 Wipeout Sleepy Labeef
08 Raining In My Heart Sleepy Labeef
09 Poke Salad Annie Sleepy Labeef
10 Take My Heart Sleepy Labeef
11 Honey Hush Sleepy Labeef
12 Rolling In My Sweet Baby's Arms Sleepy Labeef
13 Sometimes Sleepy Labeef
14 Low Down Dog Sleepy Labeef
Sleepy LaBeef   "Mr. LaBeef is a living, breathing guitar-picking history of American... more
"Sleepy Labeef"

Sleepy LaBeef


"Mr. LaBeef is a living, breathing guitar-picking history of American music."

- The New York Times


When Sleepy LaBeef made his first record, All Alone, in Texas in 1956, he probably didn't think that over fifty years later he'd be reprising the song as part of his umpteenth visit to Europe to dispense his heady blend of rocking American roots music to an international audience.

In the twenty-three years of recordings summarised in this CD, Sleepy developed a truly rocking pedigree. From 1956 onwards, he left a trail of music that stretched from small Texan record labels like Starday and Dixie through the major Columbia label to Plantation and the reincarnated Sun Records, of which, by 1979, when he first arrived in Europe with his music, he was the mainstay.

Sleepy's claim to fame has always been as much about his live performances as his records, though. Over the years, he transformed his man-mountain frame, his baritone voice, and his outstanding lead guitar playing into a human jukebox, with a repertoire running to many thousands of rock, country, blues, cajun and other gutsy songs.

When he arrived in England in 1979 for the huge annual country music festival at Wembley, he was then, as now, an absolute fanatic about the music he plays and loves. At the end of a long pre-festival dinner, he was acting like a one-man press-gang making me and his European record label bosses stop by his hotel room to listen to a tape of his latest recording session, made in Nashville a couple of weeks before. All evening, while the other artists were skipping the dinner altogether or else putting thoughts of music to the back of their minds, the abstemious Sleepy's conversation was laced with reminiscences and thoughts of rockabilly, of Wayne Raney, of the Delmore Brothers, of Tex-Mex border radio station XERF, and of attending Elvis Presley's early appearances in Texas. He was still going strong at midnight, trying to recall if he played lead or rhythm on the particular cut that was now previewing on his tape machine. We left eventually, with beefy rockabilly music swimming around in our heads, still hearing guitar solos that sounded like an inspired compound of Scotty Moore and Bo Diddley, and wondering what else there was to come from the human jukebox.

Some thirty years further on, we now know that Sleepy has let the jukebox keep on playing. He's continued to tour prolifically, despite health problems in recent years, and has made an impressive number of albums and CDs that together define the roots of America's music.


Turn Me Loose

The LaBeef story began in that unlikely-named dot on the map, Smackover, Arkansas, back in July 1935. The town was originally a French settlement called Sumac Couvert, which at some point was anglicised to Smackover; just as the LaBoeuf family became LaBeff (and only much later, LaBeef). There had been an oil boom in Smackover in 1923 but Thomas Paulsley LaBeff's early life was among the farming community some seven miles outside town. Tommy was the youngest of ten children, and perhaps it was of necessity that he developed a calm and laid-back approach to life. This became emphasised after his first day in school when his classmates started to call him 'Sleepy' on account of his heavily hooded eyes. He left school early after an eighth grade argument with a teacher but, he emphasises, "I never did stop learning."

One of the things he was most keen to learn about was music. He was not from a particularly musical family, but told me: "I had two uncles who used to play old fiddle breakdowns. And I really wanted to learn, and I found that if you really want to do something you can learn fast." The music he wanted to learn about first of all came from the United Pentecostal Church. He told promoter Richard Flohill about deacon Vernie McGee: "Church was a big part of growing up. The music was always powerful, and later on – when I got my first guitar – when I was 14, I learned just by watching the deacon play in church every Sunday. Those old gospel songs really got me inspired." He attributes the feeling that is in all Southern music to gospel music, and he feels that people like Sister Rosetta Tharpe provided the basis of the rock 'n' roll beat.

Not that he was unaware of secular music. While selling watermelon in town as a kid, he picked up snippets of the blues there: "You'd walk past those jukes and hear the music coming out the doors, and you'd remember it." He was inspired, too, by the music he heard on the radio, recalling, "we didn't have TV back then. So we grew up listening to the radio. But you know, it was so good back then we could visualise it, we could almost see those guys working. I could catch the 'Louisiana Hayride' out of Shreveport and the 'Grand Ole Opry' out of Nashville, and blues programmes out of Chicago, Little Rock, New Orleans. You'd hear hillbilly, you'd hear Hank Williams, you'd hear blues singers, you'd hear Bob Wills band, and Lucky Millinder with Sister Rosetta Tharpe – she was real fine – and you'd hear Red Foley, and bluegrass, and the radio hits of the day. So many of those people are gone now, but they made their mark with me."

He told writer Peter Guralnick about his desire to play music himself: "I got my first guitar when I was 14 and was playing rhythm in just a couple of weeks, and soon learned how to play lead parts." He had gained the guitar by trading for his rifle, emphasising his interest in the city life over the country. Leaving school, he worked at various jobs including grocery clerk, truck driver, "and some on the job training in land surveying working for the state of Arkansas Highways Department."

Sleepy LaBeef died at the age of 84, December 26, 2019. May he rest in peace!

 Sleepy Labeef Sleepy LaBeef - Sleepy Rocks
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LaBeef, Sleepy - Tomorrow Never Comes (CD) CD 1
01 Detour
02 Too Much Monkey Business
03 I Want To Be Loved
04 Will The Circle Be Unbroken
05 The Blues Come Around
06 Tomorrow Never Comes
07 Wipeout
08 Raining In My Heart
09 Poke Salad Annie
10 Take My Heart
11 Honey Hush
12 Rolling In My Sweet Baby's Arms
13 Sometimes
14 Low Down Dog