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Bob Long: Press/Reviews

in BLUES MATTERS magazine

New Album from Bob Long & Keith Miller

Committed British Blues devotees, Long and Miller here present their interpretations of founding fathers Big Bill Broonzy, Charlie Patton, Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters and, in particular, Tommy Johnson – a largely neglected Bluesman who died in 1957. Long, particularly, is a self-confessed helpless case, adopting Mississippi as his spiritual and sometimes physical home, and this self-financed album is essentially a one-take homage to the music of the creators they love so much. Their journey travels through the country blues, jug-bands, vaudeville and inevitably, north to Chicago’s urbanisation and popularisation of the blues. Long and Miller apply great commitment, guitar, dual vocals and harmonica to re-create Tommy Johnson’s forgotten “Big Road Blues”, “I Wonder To Myself” and “Maggie Campbell Blues” – doing their hero proud and bringing his heritage to a new audience. Well-versed renditions of more familiar songs like Broonzy’s “Rocking Chair Blues”, Patton’s “Some Of These Days” and Robert Johnson’s “Me And The Devil Blues” (my favourite) sit comfortably alongside earnest versions of more obscure material. No attempt here to imitate American vocals; this sound is identifiably British from 200 yards away, and is all the better for it – just what you’d hope to hear in your local Blues club (and rarely do).

Peter Innes, Blues Matters, 2008.
Peter Innes - Blues Matters (Oct 6, 2008)
A Review Of The Blues And Booze In The Bury 2008 by Dottie Pride.

Blues & Booze In The Bury, Odiham, Hampshire, Sat 14 June 2008

The second annual Blues & Booze In The Bury in Odiham, Hampshire on Sat 14 June, was a blues festival with a difference. The emphasis was on acoustic blues; a refreshing departure from the big bands. This daytime event has found a winning formula: free entry, good music, real ales from local brewers and family fun which this year, included teddybears parachuting from the church tower. No wonder it draws a good crowd! It also raises money for national and local charities, notably The Neurofibromatosis Association.

The show started at noon with solo Hampshire bluesman, Bob Long, singing and playing acoustic guitars and rack harmonica. He specialises in blues and jugband music from the 1920s and 1930s and oscillates between the deep south of England and the deep south of The USA where he is a frequent visitor, having recently played in the Clarksdale, Mississippi Juke Joint Festival for the fourth time. His set included some well known classics such as Travelin’ Riverside and Milkcow’s Calf and some material which took us off the beaten track such as Tommy Johnson’s Slidin’ Delta and Lonesome Home. I particularly liked his arrangements of R L Burnside’s Miss Maybelle and Washboard Sam’s Diggin’ My Potatoes.

Pete Harris (vocals, guitar, mandolin), also from Hampshire, was joined by Hugh Budden from Dorset (vocals, harmonica) for a very polished performance. Their material was mostly post WW2 and included some classics, notably Jimmy Reed’s Honest I Do which was superb. Hugh Budden contributed soulful lead vocals on Cross Your Heart and Learn To Treat Me Right, combined with some sizzling harmonica. Every one of their songs was a joy. I especially enjoyed their arrangement of Kim Wilson’s Looking For Trouble.

Next was Jim Crawford, originally from Manchester and now resident in Appledore, North Devon. Jim’s guitar finger picking and vocals were both brilliant. His material was varied; it ranged from a beautifully executed Sam Hopkins shuffle to the delightfully gentle and melodic Sugar Cane. His arrangement of It’s All Over Now featured some spectacularly fast and precise finger picking. My favourite was his arrangement of Come On In My Kitchen, played on slide guitar with a haunting, chilling intensity. If Robert Johnson had lived a few more years and got an electric guitar, his performance might have sounded like this…

Ernies Rhythm Section, a band of energetic young men from Manchester, was, unusually for them, a trio having temporarily lost their drummer and keyboard player but pressing on undeterred. It worked well with Rik Warren on harmonica, sounding very much like Rice Miller, Ellis Davis on guitar and Sam Buckley on bass. All three took turns on lead vocals. They produced a lively, unsophisticated set which is their trademark and certainly pleased the crowd at Odiham. It was a particular pleasure to talented young musicians playing this timeless music. I loved their version of Jimmy Reed’s Ain’t That Lovin’ You Baby, sung powerfully by Ellis Davis.

Top-of-the-bill, came the Spikedrivers. Their performance was sparkling; full of life and good humour, combined with highly impressive musicianship and a wide range of material which juxtaposed traditional songs with their own writing. The trio comprises Ben Tyzack (guitars), Maurice McElroy (percussion) and Constance Redgrave (bass). All three sing, with the lead vocals shared. Having three singers in the band works well; they produce excellent harmonies. Their set was rich in variety, lively and entertaining. Ghost Train was highly energetic and very bluesy. On Blue Trash, Constance put down her bass guitar and played washboard whilst Maurice played ceramic drum. Candyman featured Maurice on guiro. Shake That Thing was a jaunty number with the band literally dancing as they played. Midnight Mademoiselle and Soul Searching Blues were moody, thought-provoking songs. The festival ended with The Spikedrivers doing an encore with a hard-driving Dust My Broom featuring some creative, bassy slide guitar from Ben. Roll on Blues & Booze In The Bury 2009!

Dottie Pride
Dear Bob,

It’s here. The parcel with “I Wonder To Myself” has reached me safe and sound, thank you!

I liked your solo stuff a lot but together with Keith Miller it looks like you guys have a certain chemistry going on. You sound sweet together. It is so good to know that it’s 2008 and there are guys that still play those old blues classics, in such a classy way, that is. Your acoustic takes are very strong but those two amplified tracks are my favorites. Hot stuff!

I can’t wait to play the album in my shows. I’ll keep you posted with airplay news.

Thanks again for the music, Bob, I hope all is well on your end.

Best wishes,

Przemek Draheim

phone: +48 609 97 35 29
Przemek Draheim - The Voice Of The Blues, Radio Poland (Aug 23, 2008)

Album Reviews

Review: I Wonder To Myself

A percentage of the proceeds of Bob Long’s disk is going to the Tommy Johnson Blues Foundation (see lead story page 1) and this CD sets out to capture the spirit of live sets delivered by the two artists. Keith Miller’s skills complement those of Bob Long to a T and despite the fact that although they live far apart and rarely play together, prove here that they can ‘do it’ when the need arises.
Bob says that the CD is “....a homage to the men and women who first shaped the blues and a journey through the country blues, vaudeville and jug band music of the 1920s and 1930s, to the post World War 2 electric blues of Chicago” and it sure does that. Fifteen tracks including the Memphis Jug Band’s ‘Stealing, Stealing’, two Tommy Johnson pieces, ‘Big Road Blues’ and (the title track) ‘I Wonder To Myself’, another jug band special, the Mississippi Sheiks’ ‘Going to German’ and Blake’s ‘Police Dog Blues’ delivered with conviction and gusto.
If were only for the ‘cause’ to which some of the returns will be donated, this would be a worthwhile effort, but when it comes with this level of passion then.......Go For It!
Ian McKenzie (May2008)
"It sounds great - you've done a good job! Well done to all involved"
Michael Messer - Michael Messer Says.... (May 13, 2008)
“I Wonder To Myself” by Bob Long and Keith Miller (Blues Artist from United Kingdom)
"I Wonder To Myself" by Bob Long and Keith Miller is an authentic collection of old time blues tracks. This is a delightful and original rendition of old favorites. The vocals and use of guitar, harmonica, kazoo and jug give the CD that wonderfully delightful flavor of years ago when music gave the color of early America. The musicians are talented, and vocals are clear and sharp and have the feel of the era. The simple production of the mainly acoustic instruments on this CD, and mostly single-take recording is a perfect fit for the songs on this CD. Tommy Johnson's lyrics in "I Wonder To Myself" gives the common themes of the time (1929) when transportation was much slower. This song also gives hints of the racial problems of the era. The acoustic guitar, harmonica and kazoo musical accompaniment provide an outstanding musical landscape for this song. "Me and the Devil Blues" features an innovative harp sound that makes the impressive harp solo even more effective. "I Couldn't Help It" is a nice glimpse into the highlights of this CD, with a nice acoustic guitar groove, effective 2-part harmony vocals and scorching harmonica riffs. This CD is an excellent selection for the blues lover or for the collector of authentic music of American history. -Lea & The RadioIndy Team
Lea - RadioIndy (May 18, 2008)