On November 17, 3rd and Lindsley welcomed Bobby Long – this time without his band. As much as I enjoy hearing him play with a full band, I became acquainted with his music when it was just Bobby and a guitar, so there’s a special place in my heart for his acoustic sound.
Bobby Long’s latest EP, The Backing Singer, begins with the haunting She Wears Green, and this is how he opened the show. I wasn’t sure how he would pull of that same ethereal sound without the violin, but I needn’t have worried. With unmatched skill, he incorporated the most important lines of the violin with the guitar, effectively quelling my doubt.
From there, he jumped right into a crowd favorite, The Bounty of Mary Jane. This was the first song I ever heard that really showcased his picking abilities, and it’s just as awe inspiring live. I love to watch how he stretches the rhythm in places and plays with the notes a little, just to keep things fresh for those who have loved this song for ages. It seems new every time I see him play.
He then gave us a taste of something new with The Song the Kids Sing, which I first thought to be one of his signature murder ballads. It’s a cautionary tale told in his clever style, supported by minimal guitar playing a subdued oom-pah rhythm at times that brought to mind a broken carousel. However serious the subject matter and melancholy the sound, I still grinned like an idiot through the whole thing.
When he began These Boats from the latest EP, I was no longer concerned about the lack of violin, but then he took the musical genius just a step further. I don’t play guitar, but I know that carrying the violin melody while also playing the guitar melody can’t be easy. And that’s exactly what he did, while also singing tenderly and with warmth. In a live setting, keeping that energy under wraps has to be hard, but he treated every note carefully.
I finally got my murder ballad when he sang The River Is Long, infusing the song with rougher vocals that fit the subject perfectly. In between these new songs, he performed the perennial favorite, Left to Lie, which was actually the first single I purchased, and I never get tired of hearing it. The Backing Singer, the title track from his EP, followed, also performed with the softer, more intense vocals. He didn’t slip once, transitioning into Where You Lay, a sweet lullaby that is also from the EP, and maintaining that same gentle touch that permeates the whole of the album.
In between each song, Bobby seemed to be in rare form, teasing and joking with the audience. He told stories, filled a few requests (though short and sweet), shared his love for Nashville, and then proceeded to close the show with a few more favorites, including Two Years Old, Dead and Done, and Penance Fire Blues. As always, it was an incredible show, filled with fun and amazing music, that seemed to end all too soon.
Bobby Long isn’t currently touring, but he’s hinted at new recordings on his Twitter account. If you’re lucky enough to have a reservation on the Cayamo Cruise in February, you can see him perform with dozens of other amazing musicians. Otherwise, you can watch his website for updates and catch him the next time he heads your way.
Photo credit: Amanda Stamps