Sleepy LaBeef – Horseshoe Tavern (Toronto, Ontario)
Sleepy LaBeef is a man of his word. He’s played every honky-tonk in every state, every province and country on the planet, twice. His repertoire has been estimated at somewhere between 3,000 and 6,000 songs. That’s a hell of a collection, but of course, you can only hear so many in one night. Ultimately, what really makes Sleepy special is his singing.
His voice booms from his 6-foot-6, 250-pound frame preaching a lesson in American roots music that won’t soon be forgotten. And this is no nostalgia trip — it’s high energy rockabilly, swamp boogie, gospel and blues from the heart. When Sleepy and his boys launched into “Bo Diddley Was A Gunslinger”, it was down right psychobilly. After a number of songs, Sleepy confided, “We’ve got no real set plans for tonight. We’re gonna play by feel and by what you folks want to hear. So do want to hear a rocker?” He then apologized to Johnny Cash and knocked off a hard-rockin’ version of “Ring Of Fire”.
In “Roosevelt And Ira Lee”, a cut from the his new Rounder release I’ll Never Lay My Guitar Down, Sleepy spins the tale of a couple of Louisiana swamp folks hunting for supper. In the humor that’s typical of Sleepy’s songs, he concludes they’d be better off ordering up some fried chicken than stomping on a water moccasin with a pair of Converse high tops.
Let’s not forget that the man can pick: Sleepy knocked off classic bluegrass breakdowns, Ventures-style surf, and classic John Lee Hooker-style boogie chillin’. A human jukebox, a living piece of musical history, what Sleepy LaBeef is most is a cat from Arkansas who’s done it all and still is “ready, willing and able to rock ‘n’ roll all night.”