I was discussing Bobby Long with my brother last week when he suddenly recalled that he, in fact, went to high school with a Bobby Long. A Bobby Long who not only played guitar but was good at playing guitar. It was enough for us to investigate the coincidence; our fascination, however, was short lived by the fact that we didn’t go to high school in England. Yes, Bobby Long, the musician on ATO Records, is British. The strangest part about it is that I had been listening to Long’s sophomore album, Wishbone, for about a solid week already at that point. Now it’s no secret that British accents do have a tendency to disappear when vocalized in songs. Yet with Long it was more than just the vocals; the music as a whole had an American rock/country/folk vibe to it. Actually, upon my first listens of Wishbone, I was reminded a lot of Cory Chisel, and, well, he’s from Wisconsin.
All origins and locations aside, Long logged countless hours into his follow-up to 2011’s A Winter Tale, and the time and workmanship can be heard on the new record. With that said, Wishbone is a surprisingly dense album. My most familiar Bobby Long song prior to Wishbone was the single “Who Have You Been Loving,” off of A Winter Tale. It’s a somber, yearning tune but with a catchy pop hook. And with Long’s latest album, I thought many of the songs would try to channel that same song format. However, Wishbone’s lead song, “Devil Moon,” quickly establishes a different direction for the record. “Devil Moon” is relatively fast-paced and full of guitar twang; something you can definitely stomp your foot to. And that is just the beginning of Wishbone’s diverse sounds.
“She Won’t Leave” is an thoughtful, melodic track but with a rousing chorus that recalls the beloved ballads of 90’s rock heroes Live and The Counting Crows. The provoking “All My Brothers” plays out like a fight-first country anthem. “Yesterday” dances with that same aggressive energy but takes it to the next level. The track’s uplifting chorus is borderline infectious. Long seems to explore a different side of himself on the menacing tune, and it results in a fresh sound.
Long’s guitar work is at its best on Wishbone ‘s “In Your Way.” The striking, yet soothing, hollow solo at the bridge of the track is absolutely perfect. I wish it carried on for longer or revived again at the end of the song, but nevertheless, it’s a gorgeous, talented segment of the album. Album closer “To The Light” is another standout. The stomping anthem is maybe the most uninhibited moment on Wishbone and it’s another facet I’d like to hear Long explore more of.
Wishbone is an album that will take a few listens to fully appreciate but that’s all just a testament to its makeup. It seems Long is still tinkering with his overall sound and Wishbone shows those signs of continued exploration. Yet with that, he’s unveiling an impressive amount of range and promise. I like the directions Long took on Wishbone and I’m excited to hear what steps he takes next.