Len's Lounge
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Len's Lounge

Band Rock Americana


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"String Band CD Review"

Len's Lounge's latest disc shows band's new dimensions
Len's Lounge's earlier disc, Road Dog, was pretty much a solo album by lonesome troubadour Jeff Roberson. But as the title hints, String band is a real group effort. After countless local gigs, Len's Lounge has coalesced into a solid working unit.

Mr. Roberson's dry, world-weary vocals and downhome acoustic guitar remain the bedrock of Len's Lounge. But with a steady group of players, there are a few more dimensions to the band. Mr. Roberson has wisely kept it low-key. There's nothing flashy here, just simple songs (even one called "Simple Song") played and sung with sincerity.

Annie Winslow steals the show with her "Time Can't Take Away", an alt-mountain song that recalls Julie Miller, and her hopeful ballad, "You'll See The Sun Again." She's a talent to watch. Guests include Ass pony's Dave Morrison, Ed Cunningham, Swarthy and, on banjo, Newky Stapleton.

The 11-song CD ends with the anthemic "Big Spring Church", a slow, hypnotic ballad that gets a psychedelic edge from Toby Ellis' dreamy, arpeggiated guitar.

String band is a portrait of a group heading into some interesting new directions, and fans of rootsy, contemporary music should come along for the ride.

Larry Nager, Cincinnati Enquirer - Cicinnati Enquierer

"The Longest Night CD Review"

While Len's Lounge has always been a forum for writer Jeff Roberson's "mongrel Americana" musings, he's been ably augmented the past two years by a core group that includes bassist Paul Cavins, violinist Annette Ellis and vocalist/guitarist Annie Winslow. With Winslow moving away this fall, what better way to take a musical snapshot for the Lounge's rotating family album then memorializing its most cohesive, productive lineup with a live disc. Recorded at Jack Quinn's last December, The Longest Night judiciously chooses from recent studio efforts, while mixing in rare early tracks ("Whirl") and new songs. While no career oeuvre, it's a generous helping of what the Lounge does best.

Blending earnest storytelling with a liberating rawness gleefully devoid of folksy pretentiousness, Night is grass roots 'n roll with a side order of down home soul. Sidemen Mick Stapleton (drummer for The Stapletons) and keyboardist Ben Doepke of Homunculus help give Night the full(er) band treatment. With Doepke's Hammond organ lending an occasional elegiac air, the results sound looser and more immediate. The whole band coalesces on "After Image" with a muscular eight-minute workout that's almost like a lost Allman Brothers' track. At the centerpiece of the disc is one of Roberson's thematic best -- the haunting "Road Dog" -- with its Southern gothic imagery and almost mythical evocation of life on the rails/run. Night also features three Winslow compositions, including the gorgeous, bittersweet "Green."

After some delays, The Longest Night gets "CD release partied" on Friday at the York Street Café in Newport, with special guests The Thirteens and Appalachian Cancer. (Sean Rhiney) - Cincinnati City Beat

"The Longest Night CD Reveiw"

At their worst, live recordings could be reclassified as an act of international terror -- flat, hollow money-grabs by greedy execs looking to cash in on a band's sudden stardom. At their best, live albums are a revelation, capable of transporting a listener to places inside an artist's music that are otherwise unavailable. The Longest Night, as an introduction to the expanding twelve-year catalog of Len's Lounge (coincidentally the finest name for an optometrist's office yet), lies somewhere in between those poles.

Class, musicianship and taste are the hallmarks of this Cincinnati roots-rock outfit, which features Annette Christianson on violin, Paul Cavins on bass, Katherine Monnig on drums and Jeff Roberson on vocals and guitars. (For these recordings from Jack Quinn's Emerald Ballroom in 2003, Ben Doepke of Humunculous was on Fender Rhodes electric piano and Hammond organ and Mick Stapleton of The Stapletons was on drums.) The large ensemble in this case means a bigger, richer sound -- not necessarily complex arrangements. Roberson's "mongrel Americana" is occasionally growling, sometimes grinding, and throughout the disc the band is relaxed and loose without sounding sloppy. From the foot-stomping "Tennessee by Moonlight" to the epic jam of "After Image", The Longest Night is a pleasant, unpretentious document of a sophisticated band rollicking in its element. It feels a bit like a night out that ends too soon. - Spendid E-Zine

"chasing some butterflies"

Jeff Roberson, the guiding force in the band Len's Lounge, is carrying on a Midwest musical tradition.

It started in the bowels of the ships crossing the Atlantic - sea chanteys and broadsides sung by weary Irish and stubborn English, reaching the American shore to spread inland to the hills of Appalachia. Mandolins and banjos begin to accompany the ancient lullaby that a mother had always sung to her sick child. These narratives dribble down from Kentucky mountaintops into the great Ohio River. They reach us in the bars and saloons where bands like Len's Lounge have been tapping into the rich vein of Americana and delivering roots music unfettered by pop culture.


In their latest recording, String Band, Roberson and company return to the branches of that ancestral tree. The origins of Len's Lounge are as elaborate as some of the stories found on the album. Over the years, members have come and gone, a revolving cast of around 25 musicians. Jeff got his start with a band aptly named Bovine Militia, a satirical play on Cincinnati's reputation as a "cowtown."


More importantly, as the genesis of Len's Lounge unfolds, the seeds are planted with other local musicians in bands such as the Afghan Whigs and Plow-On Boy.

"Being in this area, you just can't get away from that stuff," Roberson says. "It just permeates the culture."

This extended family of dedicated musical folklorists, some more rock, some more country, is still alive and well today. String Band's sound is fleshed out with the appearance of Dave Morrison from Cincinnati's Ass Ponys on drums as well as Newky Stapleton from The Stapletons on banjo.

Thirteen years is a long time in the music industry, particularly for a band that thrives on its hometown fan base and indie-label record sales. The band's upcoming show, aptly named The Longest Night for the winter solstice on Dec. 21, will be a celebration of that time and energy, a pursuit of intimacy that you simply can't achieve with electric guitars. The organic stripped-down tone of String Band exemplifies that closeness, the rapport established with the listener.

"I love intimate situations," Roberson says, "but I love standing on the stage at the Southgate House or Bogart's. You have to give yourself over to the music to be perceived as authentic."

I learn that the song "Miranda" was co-written with Roberson's four-year-old daughter.

"We wrote that together at the kitchen table - 'OK, what did we do today?' 'Well, I was outside chasing butterflies.'"


Some of these songs, including "West of the Wabash," were written in the car while driving, the lyrics reflecting literally what Jeff was seeing.

"My mom lives out in central Illinois, so we're out there all the time. Songwriting for me is kind of a long-term organic process, part of it is articulating the environment I see around me, and not particularly in a way that makes a judgment so much as an observation."

Roberson's intent becomes two-fold: to take us to that place in the music and to provide a road map of sorts for our own travels, preferably by car.


The Longest Night performance at Jack Quinn's in Covington will be recorded for an upcoming live album. The CD, due to be released on March 21, will bring Len's Lounge into your homes, and with it the warmth of finger-picked instruments.

As our discussion winds down, Roberson reminds me why Cincinnati is unique in a country chock-full of music towns: "The media mindset is coalescing to view local music not so much as local music but music of local origin."

There is a subtle difference, and you can hear it in Len's Lounge. Awfully good come Christmas time; a perfect complement to fireside nog. - Cin Weekly

"Road Dog CD Reveiw"

It’s quite telling looking at press releases when you look down the list of who a band have opened for in the all important support slot - and Cincinnati outfit Len’s Lounge have more than their fair share of eclecticism when it comes down to support - they’ve played with everyone from David Gray and Clem Snide to Peter Case and Will Oldham. It’s safe to say that the music’s not comparable to any of the aforementioned artists, but has more than a hint of each - David Gray’s ear for a tune, Will Oldham’s darkness, Peter Case’s lingering depictions of landscapes, and Clem Snide’s hybrid of indie and country. That said, “Road Dog...” actually kicks off things in a fairly subdued fashion with “I Guess You Lay” and well into proceedings, you’d be forgiven for thinking the band are competent if not inspiring - but that’s on first listen. Things do get better once you spend time with the record - the unexpected strings of “Illinois Central,” the wonderful Johnny Cash-esque vocals of “This Train” and the sublime chord changes of “USS Wichita.” Jeff Roberson’s lyrics are vivid and descriptive too, conjouring up atmosphere even when accompanied by the sparsest of arrangements, and very much akin to the Handsome Family on more than one occasion. Not every track hits the mark every time, but safe to say that it’s a well produced thoughtful record that deserves a place in every thinking person’s americana collection. MW - Americana UK

"Road Dog CD Review (panned!!)"

Sometimes I just hate how genre-predictable certain albums are. For instance, looking at the cover and title of Len’s Lounge’s Road Dog and More Train Songs, there was absolutely no doubt that what lay encoded on the circular piece of plastic within was an album of twangy, singer/songwriter country-rock. Any album that features a view of a highway and/or a flat open space (this album cover happens to feature both) will inevitably be an effort in alternative country, replete with songs about down and out small-towners mixed with liberal doses of pedal steel and twangy guitar. Heck, you could just about review it without even listening to it. But, given that these guys have been around since 1992, way before the late-90’s alt. country boom, and feature former Afghan Whig’s bassist John Curley on (duh) bass, it deserves better than that ... I hope.

At first glance, the big harmonized choruses and electric slide guitar playing lend themselves to Eagles and Jayhawks comparisons, as the roads being traversed here are quite familiar for those who have been watching the diasporas of the country-rock movement. At times, with the Merle Haggard-ish delivery of lead vocalist/primary songwriter Jeff Roberson on tracks like “Cross Dressers and Acquaintances,” the band sounds similarly weathered as the burnt-out country warhorses in the refurbished Flying Burrito Brothers lineup that has been limping through the country for the 25+ years since Gram Parsons died. Not that it’s a bad thing to deliver songs in a certain listless steady hand, which Len’s Lounge has in spades, but it also means that their songwriter and musicianship don’t quite crackle with energy, youthfully naïve or otherwise. The first half of the album finds them generally building songs on twangy leads, pedal steel, fairly catchy choruses, and tales of small town desperation. Pretty much what would be expected.

Still, the songs aren’t totally without their quirks. While Roberson generally delivers and writes songs with a fairly indistinctive voice, there is something slightly off-center with his painfully simple descriptions, his non-rhyming verses, and his penchant for minor chord twists. Where “This Train” sounds about as old as their cover of Jimmie Rodger’s pre-WW2 “Waiting for a Train,” it almost seems to be belaboring the point to even write it. And where a cover of Guy Clark’s “Dublin Blues” provides a moment of songwriting contrast, the spooky pedal steel and ominous moods evoked by the weary “Road Dog” almost finds Robison channeling a little of Townes Van Zandt (or Guy Clark for that matter) displacement. At these moments, Len’s Lounge seem to be on the verge of something vaguely interesting.

In short, I’m not sad that I spent the time to actually listen to Road Dog and More Train Songs, even if I could have done a fairly accurate review of it without putting it in my CD player. Sadly, for Len’s Lounge, these kind of alternative country albums are rather commonplace in 2002. They possess neither the imagination or creepiness of songwriters like Tom Waits or Will Oldham, they’re not as tuneful as the Jayhawks or Wilco, and they’re not as eclectically talented as the Mavericks. They are a very decent country-rock band that knows (and uses) all of the standard country-rock tricks. And while it’s hard to blame them for that, it’s not apparent who is going to get turned on to this variation of familiar themes given the alternatives. - Delusions of Adequacy

"String Band CD Review"

Len’s Lounge is a country/bluegrass band out of Ohio that has been at it around eight years and a couple full-lengths. Singer, guitarist, and mandolinist Jeff Roberson and bassist John Curley, who is best known for playing with the Afghan Whigs, formed the band. Roberson has continued on with the band with various members coming and going, and all of whom being very musically talented. The band diversify there sound very nicely sometimes sticking to tried and true roots music, other times branching out to heartbreaking pop.

“Soul Sucker” starts the disc off with a beautiful rolling melody with some wonderful moaning violin and a mix of different vocals with nice and different instrumentation. Jeff Roberson’s country-tinged vocals mix very nicely with the soft understated tones of Annie Winslow. “Green” takes the band into a more pop-oriented approach, dropping the country leanings of prior songs, allowing Annie Winslow to take the song to another level. Winslow’s vocals are very pleasant on the ears and are also very captivating, some nice unobtrusive playing backs her. There is a great violin break lending the song a little bit of a mourning sound that is interjected nicely.

“Simple Song” lopes along with big bouncing bass, rapidly picked mandolin, and very well-played slide guitar. Roberson’s vocals are very solemn, but the lyrics, though heartfelt, are a little bit of a misstep. “Time Can’t Take Away” has Winslow to the fore again, and her strong but wispy vocals again steal the show. Winslow has the ability to take a song to places it would otherwise not venture; it shows what a very good vocalist can do to pleasant music. “Tennessee by Moonlight” is a very strong performance here with some nice interplay between all the instruments. Some very strong drum work and guitar’s blending well with the soaring and crying violin accompany this song.

This is a very competent disc full of wonderful country tunes that is pretty diverse as well. There is a nice mix of different styles involved here, and breaking up the vocals with Roberson and Winslow works to their advantage. Winslow’s sweet vocals are a nice break from the rougher country inflection of Roberson. The musical backing is perfect here, and the musicians mix up the use of traditional instruments very well. This is the perfect disc for driving through open country and loping hills, or any time you’d like to listen to relaxed and authentic country with pop melodies. - Delusions of Adequacy

"String Band CD Review"

Road Dog en Pets, de twee vorige cd’s van Len’s Lounge, zijn niet te vergelijken met deze nieuwe cd, waar songwriter Jeff Roberson veel meer ruimte laat voor de andere muzikanten. String Band, zoals het cd-tje wijselijk is getiteld, wordt veel meer gekenmerkt door snaarinstrumenten en vrouwenzang. Zo schittert Annie Wislow in het Jullie Miller-achtige ‘Time Can’t Take Away’. Het harmonieuze String Band is samengesteld volgens het basisrecept voor een goede Americana-plaat, waar de verschillende zangstemmen en melancholie bijna vanzelfsprekend zijn. Soms neigt het enthousiasme van de band naar psychedelica, vooral als de typische Americana-songs van Annette Christianson, Ann Winslow en Jeff Roberson net iets meer uitlopen dan gepland. Het blijven wel liedjes. Die speelsheid en de interactie van de muzikanten onderling maken van Len’s Lounge de ideale Americana-band, al kan je afloop van String Band niet stomverbaasd zeggen dat je zoiets niet eerder had gehoord, maar zoals je weet, zit het meestal ook wel goed met clichés.
door Maurice Dielemans - Kinda Muzik

"String Band CD Review"

New Lounge Act


It's going to be a Roots Rock/Folk music lover's dream night at the Southgate House on Saturday. Local label 3rd Silo Records will see the release of its first two CDs in one record release party extravaganza. The label -- which recently changed its name from Northern Aggression to reflect its focus on Americana and Roots music -- is putting out the brand new disc from The Stapletons (see "Locals Only," below), as well as String Band, the new long-player from Len's Lounge. On Saturday, Len's Lounge plays the Southgate's upstairs parlour, while The Stapletons headline the club's ballroom. A $6 cover gets you access to the whole shebang.

Without a doubt, String Band is Len's Lounge's finest recorded effort in its 10-year existence, from the crispness of the production quality to the richness and proficiency of both the performances and the songwriting. Lounge frontguy Jeff Roberson leads the accomplished band through 11 tracks of mountain Folk that comes across more direct and pure than past efforts, due in large part to the organic, acoustic nature of the performances. The band's current lineup is also its strongest, with each member doing the most with their roles, from Annette Christianson's sublimely slithering violin and Paul Cavins' anchoring bass bounce to the tuned-in guitar/mandolin/banjo interplay between Roberson, Toby Ellis, Ann Winslow and guest Newky Stapleton, which makes the disc's title oh-so appropriate.

Song-wise, Roberson's "West of the Wabash" and "Big Spring Church" are majestic album high-points, guided gracefully by his sonorous vocal presence. The songs, with their visceral imagery (both lyrically and sonically) and distinctly Appalachian vibe, sum up Len's Lounge's strength and power. Besides her savory harmonies, Winslow emerges as a not-so-secret weapon on String Band, with two outstanding songwriting contributions, "Green" and "Time Can't Take Away." Where previous Lounge efforts have had a "gruff but loveable" appeal, String Band finds the band's edges exquisitely whittled into a direct point.

For more on Len's Lounge, dial up lenslounge.com or 3rdsilo.com. - City Beat

"Misc. Quotes/Why Read All This Crap, Here's the Readers Digest Version?"

"An Americana powerhouse", Mike Breen, Cincinnati City Beat

"A place of frayed corners and majesty", Howlin' Blind Muddy Slim, WLW

"Jeff Roberson's songwriting embodies the soulful pocket of twangy Folk Rock that inexplicably materialized in Southwest Ohio, and Len's Lounge is the crash pad for his erudite storytelling. The rotating staff (once including violin and mandolin) is now reduced to basics, but there's still plenty of stomp to help Roberson's candid appraisals shake the room."

Dig it : Hangdogs, Bobby Bare, Hank Sr.
Ezra Waller, City Beat Magazine, Cincinnati, Ohio

"What Len's Lounge delivers is a gritty, melancholy brand of Americana. "
Steve Wildsmith, Maryville, Tn. The Daily Times

"Class, musicianship and taste are the hallmarks of this Cincinnati roots-rock outfit "
Evanston Wade, Sponic-Zine

"Blending earnest storytelling with a liberating rawness gleefully devoid of folksy pretentiousness, Night is grass roots 'n roll with a side order of down home soul"
Sean Rhiney, Cincinnati City Beat

"I'll tell you right now, you listen to Len's Lounge and move your beer behind your face 'cause your gonna water it down."
Howlin' Blind Muddy Slim - WLW - Me


2006 Bad Tuxedo Tour (compilation)
2005 iLove, Tokyo Rose Records (compilation)
2004 The Longest Night, 3rd Silo Records
2004 Hoss: A Tribute To Waylon Jennings, CB Records (compilation)
2002 String Band, 3rd Silo Records
2001 Road Dog and more train Songs, Northern Aggression Records
2001 Bitter Sweet Relief, Northern Aggression Records CD compilation
2000 Twisted Roots, B-Side Records CD compilation
1997 Pets, self released CD
1994 7" single, Monocat 7 Records
1993 Natural Alternatives, WNKU CD compilation
1993 lenslounge, self released tape cassette



Back in 1993 Cincinnati, Ohio folk singer Jeff Roberson and Afghan Whigs bassist John Curley got together and started Len's Lounge as a vehicle for Jeff's plaintive songs. Cutting a ragged edge across country, folk and rock genres, the band has lived on in many forms (former members read like a who's who of Cincinnati music) with the current line up of Jason Gay on pedal steel and electric guitar, Jason Wilcoxin on bass, Dan Baechle on drums, and Jeff Roberson on vocals, electric and acoustic guitars plus a revolving cast of gypsy fiddlers, guitar slayers and transient organ-piano players.