Music Review: Bobby Long – A Winter Tale

Hey there…

When I was 24, I was still trying to figure out my life. How many of us can honestly say we knew what we were doing with the rest of our lives by that point? And yet, in this age of American Idol, we now see kids as young as fifteen entering the limelight without any clue of what’s to come.

So when I heard Bobby Long’s music, I was in shock and awe not only that A Winter Tale was his debut studio album, but that he had that much conviction behind his words at age 24. It turns out he’s one of the few young talented folks who actually had his act together at a young age (17). He started at open-mic nights in London as he went to London Metropolitan University studying music in film and writing a thesis on “The Social Impact of American Folk Music” and has been touring over the last couple of years building his fanbase.

Between his great guitar skills and poetic lyrics, Bobby was a rising star with a bright future. His fans already know that. But with his album about to be released, the rest of the world has no idea what’s coming. From the opening strains of “A Winter Tale” through “A Stranger Song,” he had me enthralled as he told his stories in song.

I was raised in a house where I heard a ton of folk music growing up, but even since then I haven’t heard much that comes close to Bobby’s style and sound. The mix of blues and folk influences that comes closest may be Peter Mulvey, who’s one of my favorites. But there’s more country-blues and rock in Bobby’s guitar arrangements that offers something unique. There’s a sadness to each of these tales sung with an emotional punch and a voice that holds much more experience than someone so young ought to have.

A Winter Tale pairs the young artist’s talents with some amazing folks backing him up. Nona Hendryx (LaBelle) offers background vocals on “Penance Fire Blues” and Icelandic singer Lay Low offers backing vocals on other tracks. Add to that the pedal steel guitar of B.J. Cole (who plays with Elton John and Sting), and others and you end up with a textured release that simply doesn’t sound like a debut album. This might as well have been Bobby’s third or fourth…

But let me get back to the songs themselves…

“Who Have You Been Loving” tells the tale of moving on from someone who’s wronged him with a message loud and clear – “If someone isn’t hurt, then it’s gonna be me / but the tears they taint your heart, you’re so happy that you’re free / if you’re no better now than you’ve ever been / you owe me an apology…” But he’s moving on – “Before the dusk falls to dark, I’ll have you banished from my mind / I just need a moment’s rest to make it mine…” With a steady blues beat in the background and an electric guitar offering a bit of harshness, the song doesn’t beat around the bush…

And then in “Sick Man Blues,” we’re presented with a very different sound. This time the singer speaks fondly of a woman who’s bad news… It’s a dichotomy of happy, upbeat finger picking and sad lyrics often found in folk music. “Your love carries the rhinestone of a plague, so bear in mind the lives that you could save / I’m bound to walk the darkness again…” It’s an old story told with a new voice. “My love it sits untainted to the rigours of your stare / there ain’t anybody like you and the fairness of your hair / it leaves me stranded…” Could he walk away? It’s hard to say.

But my favorite song on the album has to be “Penance Fire Blues,” with its rhythmic strumming and gospel blues feel as it tells tales of a man suffering in a darkness of his own making. This might as well be about world politics as much as love. “You back down a hallway / to flourish the darkness / and you fool yourself / You did it all for her / and him, and her…” The truths we all cling to fade away in the end. What do reasons matter when compared with the deeds themselves?

How can someone so young have such insights into the world? Like all of us, Bobby Long is a product of his times – but damn if he doesn’t have an amazing way of expressing himself. If this is one of the new sounds of modern folk, I’ll be listening until they put me in the ground.

Looking for a fresh voice? Check out Bobby Long’s A Winter Tale today. Check out his website at BobbyLong.info for more about the album and his touring schedule to see if he’s in your neck of the woods!

This article first appeared at BlogCritics.org here.

–Fitz

p.s. Pick up this and other great albums from Barnes & Noble:

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Music Review: InsideOut – Dilana

Hey all…

Back in 2005 and 2006, I watched Rock Star: INXS and Rock Star: Supernova with my wife and girls. We caught every episode almost rabidly, as it was (and still is) rare to hear fresh takes on rock standards on regular television apart from the American Idol franchise. The show was hosted by Brooke Burke and Jane’s Addiction lead guitarist Dave Navarro. Both seasons of Rock Star shared a number of great new rock stars with a CBS audience.

During the second season, we were introduced to Dilana, a singer, songwriter, and performer born in Johannesberg, South Africa. She managed to escape to the Netherlands and then Los Angeles, performing in her own band alongside acts such as Joe Cocker, K’s Choice, and Heather Nova. But until she appeared on Rock Star: INXS, I have to admit we hadn’t heard of her.

With her amazing rock goddess gravelly voice she managed to rock her way into our hearts and finished second runner-up to Lukas Rossi on the show. After that we wondered what had happened to her. With her rock star attitude, songwriting skills, and killer vocals we hoped it wouldn’t be the last we’d heard of Dilana.

Fast forward to November 17, 2009… Dilana’s debut album InsideOut – produced by Dave Bassett and featuring No Doubt drummer Adrian Young and Mötley Crüe guitariist Mick Mars – has been released by Kabunk! Records. Dilana’s definitely back, belting out her own songs, proving that rock star swagger is back in a big way. The album starts off with “Holiday” and leaves us with “The Question”, but there’s NO question that she’s going to leave her mark in the world of rock-n-roll. As she says in “Holiday” – “Oh my life has changed / Like a holiday / Feels so damn good…” Hard to argue with that!

Without a doubt, this is one of my favorite rock albums of 2009. Dilana manages to not only rock out from beginning to end, but manages to do it with a variety of styles rarely seen in debut albums. You can tell she’s put the experience before and after Rock Star: INXS to good use. I found it impossible to avoid bobbing my head and dance along.

Dilana mixes and matches hard, guitar-heavy rock with rock ballads that feature that awesome set of pipes she has. Songs like “LOUD Silence” where she croons “you gotta hold on / in the LOUD silence…”, and “Ice” where she slows it down to show her sensitive side. But I think “Solid Gold” has to be my 2nd favorite track on the album (behind “Holiday”) with its drum-beat intro and amazing guitar rhythms that beat their way into your brain.

InsideOut is now among my favorite albums and will get some serious play in my collection. I hope this isn’t the last we’ve heard from Dilana. If you want a hard-rockin’ songstress with some serious pipes, look no further than Dilana. Check out her MySpace page to get a listen to some of her tracks.

–Fitz

p.s. Pick up some great Rock Star music from Amazon!

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