By Walter Tunis
Posted August 13, 2015
British-born songsmith Bobby Long hasn't hit 30 yet. But listen to this learned, natural folk storyteller, and you can hear an elder musical soul at work.
In the region for three performances over the next week, including a full club show in Newport Friday night and an abbreviated WoodSongs set here at the Lyric Theatre and Cultural Arts Center on Monday, Long was introduced peripherally to pop audiences in 2008 when his ragged lament Let Me Sign wound up in the first Twilight movie. While the tune was actually sung by the film's star (and Long's good pal) Robert Pattinson and didn't wind up on the subsequent hit soundtrack album, it was a starting point for the Greater Manchester artist who was still immersed in studies at London Metropolitan University at the time.
Long works out of Nashville today, having recorded for Dave Matthews' ATO label (it released his debut album, A Winter Tale, in February 2011). Later that year, Long hit the road in America for dates alongside Matthews as well as appearances at Bonnaroo and the Austin City Limits Festival.
The new So Long to Thinking album, however, best defines Long's songwriting prowess. The record was funded independently by a PledgeMusic campaign, cut over a two-week period at Congress House Studios in Austin and released on the acclaimed Nashville Americana/bluegrass label Compass. So Long to Thinking also pares Long's compositions down to folk-fortified essentials that place emphasis on the gravelly timbre of his singing and his acoustic arrangements.
Critics and bio materials have compared the resulting tunes to works by Elliott Smith, Leonard Cohen and even Bob Dylan. But the music on So Long to Thinking isn't so easily pegged. Within the record's 11 songs sits an early 1970s sensibility (from Neil Young to the forgotten serenader John Dawson Read) that ties into comparatively recent folk anarchists like Iron & Wine (which Long has toured with).
For those not familiar with his music, and many likely aren't, a visit to Long's website is in order. A listen to recently posted acoustic sessions for Daytrotter and Relix make for a fine introduction to the music of an absorbing, mature and highly distinctive song stylist.
Of course, should you want to experience Long songs as they happen, you have three performance opportunities in the days ahead.
■ 8:30 p.m. Aug. 14 with Jayson Erik Alcott at the Southgate House Revival, 111 E. Sixth St., Newport. $10, 12 (859) 431-2201. Southgatehouse.com.
■ 7 p.m. Aug. 17 with the Andy T — Nick Nixon Band at the Lyric Theatre, 300 E. Third St., for the WoodSongs Old-Time Radio Hour. $10 general public, $5 students. (859) 252-8888. Woodsongs.com.
■ 9 p.m. Aug 18 at Zanzabar, 2100 South Preston Street in Louisville. $12, $14. Zanzabarlouisville.com.
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