The first thing you notice about Jonathan Long’s new record, Parables of a Southern Man, is that his virtuoso guitar playing is not his only strength. Long is a complete musician and entertainer, a great singer and totally original songwriter whose lyrical guitar playing is always in service to the bigger picture.
Technically there is only so much you can play on an electric guitar-fronted blues band, and most everything has been tried at least once. The differences are more in emotional expression, the ineffable human quality that animates the playing and performance. Long excels at the high intensity blues rock format. You can hear Louisiana calling in Long’s control of dynamics, and his conversational manner of playing, that front porch penchant for telling multiple stories in a single solo. As a sheer force player Long belongs in the company of the masters. The bells he rings come closer to Albert Ayler’s than Johnny B Goode’s. Yet he can be as elegant and soulful as B.B. King on an R&B jump tune or a ballad.
But that still isn’t the best thing about Long. What really sets him apart is his songwriting and singing, which has evolved out of the blues canon into his own version of Americana, a place emerging from but not tied to any genre, too personal to be anything but unique.