Jonathon Long On Influences, His New Album and Living The Blues!
Debuting at number eight on the Billboard Blues chart, the new self-titled CD from Louisiana musician Jonathon Long treats listeners to a rich gumbo of blues, country and a touch of southern rock. While Long’s hometown of Baton Rouge has a proud blues history, it would be a mistake to label Long as a bluesman. In his words, “I grew up immersed in the blues, and I’ll always love and respect that style. If I had to, I could play an entire ninety minute set of nothing but the blues. But, my heart and soul is in songwriting, melody and beautiful arrangements. I like to throw listeners a curveball once in a while.” Long’s new album was produced and released by Samantha Fish, an artist who’s no stranger to tossing the audience a curveball or two. While Fish initially gained fame as a blues-rock guitar slinger, her music has evolved to embrace a wide palette of American roots styles. Jonathon Long is the first release on her Wild Heart Records label. It’s fitting that an artist who’s undergone so much musical growth would lend her support to another eclectic musician with deep southern roots.
Talking to Long, it’s easy to see why he’s so adept at performing music that blurs genre lines. “I’ve listened to a little bit of everything. I was never the type musician who listened to nothing but Zeppelin, Hendrix and Stevie Ray. Aquarium Rescue Unit has always been my favorite jam band. I love Rascal Flatts and George Strait. Growing up, I listened to a lot of Gillian Welch. I think James Taylor is one of the greatest songwriters – I listen to “Copperline” every single day.” Ask Long about his favorite guitarists and you’ll get further evidence of his wide-ranging taste. “To me, the greatest guitar player who ever lived was the progressive rock musician Shawn Lane. His style was so melodic. In the blues realm, my biggest influences are Michael Burks and Sean Costello. My favorite current blues guitarist is Eric Gales. He knows every single chord, and he plays ‘em all upside down and backwards!” (Eric Gales is a left handed guitarist who plays a standard right handed guitar.)
Long’s deft touch as a songwriter and a guitarist shines on every track on the new album. “Bury Me,” the opening track, quickly establishes Long as a self-effacing but thoughtful everyman. When he sings, “Bury me when I’m gone/with my guitar and some cheap cologne/all that’s left is a pile of bones/remember me through the words of my song,” he comes off like a kinder and gentler version of Ronnie Van Zandt. These days, think pieces about the declining middle class are a dime a dozen. Long’s “Living the Blues” tackles economic anxiety with heartfelt lyrics and outstanding fretwork. As Long reflects, “There’s no middle class anymore. You’re either rich or you’re living the blues. If you can’t afford to drive your own car, you’re living the blues. If you’ve got to move back in with your Mom because you can’t pay the rent, that’s the blues!”
The haunting, minor key workout “The River” is likely to be a favorite track for Samantha Fish fans. Written by Fish’s friend Kenny Tudrick, drummer for the Detroit Cobras, the track features Fish and Long singing side by side. Long recalls, “At first I wasn’t sure about the tune. I had trouble connecting with it. But, when we brought it into the studio is just came out like butter – it melted into a great track. It’s now one of my favorite songs on the album. Me and Samantha have done a few shows together, and we’re looking forward to doing many more.” The closing track, a swampy blues titled “Pray for Me” brings Long back to his Baton Rouge roots and gives him plenty of room to stretch out on guitar. While he’s clearly an artist who goes beyond three chord blues, “Pray for Me” shows that Long can be one fierce blues guitar slinger when he chooses.
Jonathon Long hit the streets on September 4, and Long’s been ecstatic about the feedback the album has generated. “It makes me feel good as an artist that the music is reaching people in a positive way. My sister, who listens to nothing but pop music and hip-hop, told me how much she loves the album. I’m completely enamored with the responses we’ve been getting. Now it’s time to book the gigs and festivals so we can start bringing our music to people live. This music performed live is something else, and we want to bring that to as many venues as possible.”
When you hear the excitement in Long’s voice as he talks about recording and performing, you know you’re talking to a rising star. If every release on Samantha Fish’s new record label has the passion and soul of Jonathon Long, we’ve got a lot of great music to look forward to. Both artists deserve thanks for giving roots music lovers something to smile about.