As collected by Francis James Child during the latter part of the 19th Century, the ballads of England and Scotland are rich historic documents of people, events and histories heightened for dramatic effect.
In this historic Anglo-American tradition, the detailed lyrics of singer/songwriter Bobby Long form a vital link in this chain, revealing intimate dioramas, romantic interludes and a search for purpose and redemption.
Long is a marvelously evocative singer whose rich, husky vocal tone enunciates the clarity of the stories. On his latest release, Ode To Thinking, the U.K.-born, New York City resident injects a sense of immediacy and purpose to a suite of 11 songs. Recorded in Austin, TX with producer Mark Hallman at Congress House Studios, Long recorded the entire project in less than two weeks, as Hallman accompanied him on a dizzying range of instruments, from pedal steel to Hammond B3.
Originally from Wigan, U.K., Long grew up in Wiltshire, known as the literary setting for novels by Thomas Hardy. But Long, performing at open mics in London during his university years, was intent on taking his artistry to the country whose music was his inspiration––the United States. “England obviously has great bands—The Beatles, Stones and Black Sabbath, and solo artists like Elvis Costello, Nick Lowe and Joe Cocker,” he says. “But living in America is the Holy Grail.”
Like Christopher Isherwood and D.H. Lawrence—English writers who chose to live outside of their country––Long acknowledges that its distance and detachment helps him to appreciate his home country. He also notes that a sense of transient impermanence is helpful. “It’s good for a writer to feel displaced,” he notes. “I feel a different perspective when I view it from outside.”
This summer, Long returned to the U.K. for his first large scale show at one of the world’s most colossal music festivals, Glastonbury. “It was great to play for family and friends,” he says of the event. Following a week in the U.K. this fall, an extensive European tour is scheduled.
“Ode to Thinking,” the title track, is a rumination on social and personal consciousness as underscored by Hallman’s spare organ lines. “I wanted to begin this new album with a statement and then move backwards,” explains Long. “We’ve unchained our monster/And it’s left me feeling unwell,” say the lyrics.
A harrowing story, “Kill Someone,” contains what Long believes is his best ever line: “There’s a man out there talking speaking in tongues/Losing his hair, bleeding gums.” The man in question, whom Long rakes over the coals with unrelenting imagery, is a real person. “He a relative, a member of my family, and the worst person I ever met,” Long says.
In ¾ time, “The Songs the Kids Sing” is annotated with the timeless Continental lilt of an accordion. “I was inspired by Leonard Cohen, who does waltzes that I love,” says Long.
Ode To Thinking is Long’s third full-length release in addition to various EPs. His first two records were under the auspices of ATO Records, a label formed by Dave Matthews that now serves as home to the red hot Alabama Shakes. This project was funded through a Pledge Music campaign. While Long is quick to praise his former label, he believes that the independent direction and his current partnership with Compass Records will propel his career in an ascendant direction.
Exceeding the goal of his fundraising campaign is evidence that Long is reaching a dedicated audience. “Essentially, they are prepaying for the music,” he notes. “Earlier in my career I was shy, so this was difficult, but now I really enjoy it. I’ve never felt better in my life––and the audience is a part of that journey.”
Contact Sharon Weisz, W3 Public Relations.
By Dan Kimpel