Bobby Long - A Winter Tale [Album Review]
Coinciding with a rough winter storm pounding through the middle of America, Bobby Long's debut album, A Winter Tale (ATO Records, 2011), hits stores today with a fury of a gale storm wind. With a gritty voice sounding older than his twenty-four years, the British singer-songwriter-guitarist blends American folk, country and blues into a powerful mixture of introspective songs that resonate with young and old listeners alike.
The fresh-faced Long, originally from the South West English countryside, now calls New York City home. Before moving across the Atlantic, Long had moved to London to attend London Metropolitan University where, according to his bio, he studied Music in Film and wrote his thesis on The Social Impact of American Folk Music. He had taken up the guitar at 17 and after he arrived in London he became a fixture at London's open-mic nights. His research and practice paid off. His song "Let Me Sign," co-written with friend Marcus Foster, found its way in the 2008 blockbuster film Twilight sung by actor/singer Robert Pattison.
Produced and engineered by Grammy award winner Liam Watson (The White Stripes) at ToeRag Studios in London, the songs for A Winter Tale were recorded on analog tape rather than digitally. With songs played live in just a few takes, the recording process allowed subtle nuances and mistakes while adding character and depth along the way. The songs breathe in a way that leaves their soul intact; something digital recording cannot hope to achieve. The recording brings Long closer to his audience as he's seemingly playing in the room with the listener. The effect lifts these songs, which feel like diary entries at times, and the record takes on a highly personal quality.
The 11 track album highlights Long's deeply personal songwriting infused with his creative poetic lyrics. From the beautifully picked melody lines of "The Bounty of Mary Jane" and "Sick Man Blues" to the country rock of the title track and "Who Have You Been Loving" these are deeply crafted songs rise above pop simplicity into storytelling songs like the traditional folk songs passed from holler to holler in the Appalachian region a century ago.
Unsurprisingly, Long cites Dylan as an influence and "Pennance Fire Blues" (free download here) comes closest to the early Bob Dylan comparison. An acoustic based song that straddles the line between folk and early blues based rock, the song starts in the vein of Dylan's version of the traditional "House Carpenter" from The Bootleg Series Vol. 1-3, but kicks into a Bringing It All Back Home era number with a boom-chicka-boom back beat with an overlay of guitar and piano.
On "A Passing Tale" Long sings the Dylanesque line "I don't know where I am headed to, but at least I know where I've been" reminiscent of the Dylan penned line "I was so much older then, I'm younger than that now" from "My Back Pages." During the next track, Long wears an influence squarely on his sleeve as he conjures up the ghost of Johnny Cash on "Dead And Done" who stops by to split a beer with the protagonist. Long draws strength from the masters and re-channels it into his own work in an original way. He hits the mark with a beautiful record that should make people outside of the music circles stick their ears out and take notice.
Starting tomorrow Long begins an ambitious four month long tour playing 54 live dates throughout the United States, Australia and Germany ending back in his native England. His tour makes an early stop at the Old Rock House in St. Louis on February 12. The show is $10 and open to all ages, however there is a $2 minor surcharge at the door. The venue is advertising that doors open at 7pm with the show to begin at 8pm.
If you're curious to hear his sound before his St. Louis date, Long is performing "Who Have You Been Loving" on NBC's The Tonight Show with Jay Leno this Thursday, February 3rd. Long is no stranger to touring as evidenced by playing 160 shows in seven months in seven countries during 2009.
The album is available on CD, Digital Download (MP3), and Vinyl (2-LP set w/ 3 vinyl only bonus tracks). The download is available at iTunes and Amazon. Furthermore, you can check out the entire record via full-album streams all this week on AOL Music, MSN, and CBS' TheStreetdate.com.