Bobby Long,
Ode to Thinking
(Compass, 2015)

At this writing, we've got three more months 'til the end of the year, but it's still safe to say that Bobby Long's new album, Ode to Thinking, is easily the best Americana album of the year. Long scores on all fronts: the album is beautifully written, sung, produced and mixed. It does what all of the best albums do: it makes a profound personal statement while at the same time touching the universal. Ode to Thinking is Bobby Long's story but it's also the story that belongs to all of us.

This is Long's third album and it consists of songs that went through a year-long creative process, where after the writing, he tested them on the road and tweaked them, altering them, dropping the ones that don't work, playing the songs until they are ready to record. Then, with producer Mark Hallman, he went into the studio and cut the album in two weeks. The songs are built around Long's voice and guitar, with Hallman adding most of the other instruments: organ, bass and drums. The result is a haunting, evocative album that lives in your mind long after you hear it.

Long, whose plaintive, sensitive voice carries emotion the way an intellectual carries knowledge, sings the living hell out of these songs. He sounds like the illegitimate child of Ray La Montange and Joe Cocker and is able to sing fingerpicked ballads, uptempo folk-rockers and midtempo love songs convincingly.

The CD offers a great mix of songs and never makes the mistake of having two songs in the same tempo or the same key follow each other. Each song is arranged organically; in all cases, the arrangement suits the material perfectly.

Before too long, the name Bobby Long will be mentioned with the names Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan and Tim Buckley. If he keeps making music this good, he's going to be one of the immortals.

music review by
Michael Scott Cain

17 October 2015

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