Material: Under the umbrella of singer-songwriter, Bobby Long’s music resides somewhere between folk, rock and acoustic with a twist of alternative. You can’t easily liken him to any particular artist, but some of his influences are songwriters like Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen, which is reflected in his poetic leaning. Celebrating his new release, Sultans, Long
debuted the album in its entirety with a full band in tow. The songs are sometimes tinged with darkness, but they are overshadowed by hope and self-determination. In “Mazzarati,” one of the musically strongest in the set, Long depicts the struggle to stay true to oneself while facing resistance: While my head is turning/keep the fires burning so I can find my way back home…If you’re looking for some truth/you’ve lost it/…I try to make some sense of it all. The verse chords go to unexpected places that pleasantly take the listener by surprise, and though they may not be as radio-friendly as more predictable chord changes are, they are satisfying. In “Love,” a tender straightahead rock ballad a plea is made to unlock one’s submerged
feelings: With so much love to give/you keep it all locked and hid…/try to break out of the spin and re-begin.
Musicianship: Long’s robust but slightly gravelly sound serves him well as a vehicle for more expressiveness. When he reaches for higher notes, his falsetto kicks in, adding a lyrical quality, while serving as a springboard back to the meatier part of his range. With producer Jack Dawson on board, Long was able to showcase the songs as he envisioned them, while other band members filled in the spaces, rounding out sections and covering musical motifs. Featuring electric guitars, the songs shifted from a blander acoustic/folk sound, to something richer and more sonically complex.
Performance: Experienced beyond his years, it’s evident that Long has logged many hours on stage. He possesses a certain je ne sais quoi that separates merely talented people from those with an extra dose of star power. Never introducing a song with a synopsis, he delivered off-the-cuff banter laced with occasional humor, letting the song and performance speak for itself. When the band left the stage, Long finished off the set with three additional numbers, including a rendition of the Oasis song “Don’t Look Back In Anger,” a welcome addition, after introducing so many unfamiliar songs.
Summary: Bobby Long has a refreshing originality, which comes through with his chord changes and expressive style. Though not neatly fitting into a narrow marketing framework, there is plenty of substance that will continue attracting a strong fan base.
Players: Bobby Long, guitar, vocals; Jack Dawson, guitar, Wurlitzer; Dave Lindsey, drums; James Preston, bass; Sam Elwitt, guitar, keyboards