James Brown may be hailed as the hardest working man in show business, but I’m pretty sure singer/songwriter Bobby Long is determined to give him a run for his money. Earlier this year, he released his debut album, A Winter Tale, produced by Liam Watson (The White Stripes) and toured relentlessly for four months across North America, Australia, and Europe promoting it.
After that, he did his turn through the music festival circuit, playing at Bonnaroo, Mountain Jam Festival, twice at Dave Matthews’ Caravan in Chicago and Atlantic City, and even Austin City Limits. He also supported reputable artists such as Joan Osborne, Brett Dennen, Guster, and Matt Nathanson.
He’s made television appearances on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno in February and on CBS’s The Morning Show in August. He’s done his fair share of radio shows as well, with WXPN on World Café/NPR in Philadelphia, AudioTree in Chicago, and KDHX in St. Louis, just to name a few.
Meanwhile, he wrote a book of poetry that eager fans are anxiously waiting to read and he’s written a few dozen songs for his second full-length album that he plans to record with his band early next year.
After a busy eight months or so, another artist might relish the chance to take a break, relax a bit, and bask in the glow of his success, but not Bobby Long. He’s not one to sit on his hands, so over the summer he recorded a five-song EP titled The Backing Singer, which he’s currently spending two months touring North America and Europe to promote.
If you’re not yet familiar with his name, Bobby Long is a British singer/songwriter currently living in New York City who first gained popularity as a solo acoustic act, singing his soulful folk tunes, rich with bluesy or sometimes country undertones. His songs tell stories of love and war and death and heartache. When he recorded his debut album, he had a band backing him, adding depth and a sense of maturity to his songs that many of his fans already were familiar with. His Winter Tale tour was also with a band, adding a harder rock element to his previously quiet yet passionate performances.
The stage is where he really comes alive. Whether it’s a pin-drop quiet room while crooning his soulful ballads, or a raucous crowd of clapping and singing while belting out his foot-stomping jams, Bobby Long has a commanding stage presence that always holds his audience’s rapt attention.
On The Backing Singer, we see Long returning to his acoustic roots, with tender songs and his signature finger-picking style guitar in perfect tandem with his gritty, raspy voice. He’s accompanied by a number of talented musicians, like Dawn Landes (The Secret Sisters) and Cat Pierce lending their beautiful voices to the background, along with the intricate stylings of Jack Dawson on violin.
The Backing Singer is a lovely collection of meaningful songs and the perfect interlude between full length albums. But I don’t think it’s safe to label this artist as ‘the singer of sweet songs’ quite yet. Long’s extensive catalogue of songs already illustrates a vast variety of styles, whether it’s soft and melodic or loud and upbeat. He often talks about the music he listens to and is influenced by and his own tastes vary as much as his talents. The future of Bobby Long’s musical career will be equally varied. As he grows and develops further as a musician and songwriter, so will his sound change and evolve. And true music fans will, no doubt, have many years and many albums of eclectic music to enjoy from him.
His current tour finds him returning to North America beginning in Toronto on November 3, traveling down the east coast and finishing up in the deep South, in Alabama, on Nov 19. Check out his official site for more tour dates.