Material: In 2015, guitarist-vocalist John Freeburn, the driving force behind “folkalicious” collective TallGrass GetDown, decided to refocus his artistic vision. Assuming the moniker Long Gone John, he utilized the same musicians for this reincarnation, an odd decision that makes more sense once recognizing every one of their breezy, up-tempo songs remain hindered by an unfortunate similarity, both rhythmically and tonally. Alongside covers, the band performs live versions of tracks off the collective’s recently revealed debut, “Miles Away,” including “Complaints #24, 57 & 88” and the memorable “Takin’ My Moonshine Away.”
Musicianship: Freeburn and his supporting players coast effortlessly upon a wave of rhythm and warmth, skillfully weaving notes into precious tapestries of sentiment that comfort the soul as much as they get one’s toes tapping. Freeburn naturally assumes the spotlight but it’s Dave Langevin’s keyboard moves that elevate their sound beyond elegantly quotidian. Koenig’s drumming consistently provides an infectious yet unpretentious bed for them to grace their honeysuckle harmonies. Allowing upright bassist Ian Wade to handle lead vocals for the occasional number provides an element of variety that’s regretfully limited, considering Freeburn’s admission that he modeled his style after Wade’s.
Performance: Long Gone John capably made the most of the cramped space offered by Toad, Wade literally playing astride the stage. Freeburn can comfortably address a crowd, affably setting up songs and spinning anecdotes for precisely the right length of time. Concluding their set, he provides the requisite band mate name checks, but what’s missing is anything that will grab the attention of half-interested interlopers.
Summary: Long Gone John’s abilities go far, with their mellifluous vocals, lyrics that easily roll off the tongue, head-nodding percussion and soul squeezing ivories making them worth hearing. Despite all this, their material, arrangements and persona fall prey to the double-edged sword of consistency, for while their artistic through line remains true the sameness of their sound breeds boredom. This places them in the pantheon of unfulfilled greatness. Listeners will inevitably leave wishing their material popped with more originality.