Bobby Long | 03.15 | NYC

By: Ryan Dembinsky

Bobby Long :: 03.15.10 :: Mercury Lounge :: New York, NY

Bobby Long by: Lisa Serrano
In this uncharted realm of so-called new media – you know, the one that flipped the music industry on its head and continues to shake it by its very ankles until every last bit of loose change spills out of its pockets – there now exists a slew of ways to judge the snowballing momentum of a rising star. You can count hits on a MySpace page, fans on Facebook, views on YouTube, links on blogs, downloads on iTunes, Tweets, re-Tweets, and more. But there's still one failsafe method that speaks volumes above and beyond any digital metrics for monitoring the growth and staying power of a new talent: Can they fill a venue on a Monday night in the rain?

In his latest unlucky streak of stormy visits to the Big Apple, the U.K.'s Bobby Long packed the Mercury Lounge to the gills on a dreary, stormy Monday and served a perfect supplement for the Day of Moon blues with his heart-achingly stripped-down songwriter fare with a finger-picking country bent and sung with a beckoning English accent.

I suspect few jam fans know much about Bobby Long as he does not fall neatly within those borders, but for anyone who cares to hear a captivating vocalist in the vein of Ralph McTell, Kris Kristofferson, or perhaps even a British John Mellencamp, give him a listen.

Over the course of this hour-and-change set, Long tested out new material, including "A Winter Tale," "I Give Her Love," "A Stranger Song" and "Hide Yours," while working in old standbys like the popular "Bounty of Mary Jane" and "In the Frost," all performed with great solemnity. Highlights included the introduction of a new arrangement of "Penance Fire Blues," which built into a nice crescendo, as well as the rousing beauty of "Two Tone Lover."

Bobby Long by: Lisa Serrano
Between numbers, he kept it light, joking before delving into "Who Have You Been Loving" that "this one's for Tiger Woods." Furthermore, he showed a generally increased comfort level and ease in his stage presence, taking the audience on entertaining anecdotal tangents, such as an endearing story of his grandfather's time spent serving as a Royal Air Force (RAF) pilot.

Since his last visit to New York City, when he held court at the also jammed Bitter End in September, Long seems to have also improved markedly in his finger-style guitar playing. The majority of the catalog builds off relatively simplistic chord progressions, but he shows a remarkable knack for adding color via accent notes with his unorthodox two-fingered picking attack and construction of fuller, brighter chords than the standard singer- songwriter fare. Notably, he walks the line between country blues and the more uplifting traditional I-IV-V type structures, while taking the crowd energy through high peaks of heavy strumming howls and low valleys of quiet, whispered picking.

Interestingly, while no shortage exists of catchier singer-songwriters in the genre, Bobby Long possesses a rabid fan base, once comprised largely of females but the male portion continues to grow fast. This is surely due, at least in part, to his distancing, finally, from an earlier licensing success as he had a song placement in some movie that we're not going to mention - it's time to let it go. Still, the fans get it. They follow all the new material intently, sing-along with most every tune, and soak up even the most obscure cover choices.

There is something genuine and invigorating about catching a young musician in such a sweet spot, the point where the close knit, accessible feeling still exists but you truly feel that momentum building. Bobby Long currently sits comfortably on that perch. With his first proper LP due to drop later this summer and the rooms quickly growing, the chances for quiet, standing-room-only Mondays are likely fleeting. But look on the bright side; so is the rain.

Bobby Long :: 03.15.10 :: Mercury Lounge :: New York, NY
A Winter Tale, I Give Her Love, The Bounty of Mary Jane, In the Frost, A Stranger Song, Who Have You Been Loving, Penance Fire Blues, Hide Yours, and I'll Hide Mine, Dead and Done, Two Tone Lover, Two Years Old

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[Published on: 4/2/10]

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