Jonathon Long, the Baton Rouge singer, guitarist and songwriter formerly known as Jonathon “Boogie” Long, did his homework. After learning gospel songs in his early childhood, the teen-aged Long studied blues at jam sessions with Kenny Neal, Henry Gray, Larry Garner and two Slim Harpo band veterans, James Johnson and Rudy Richard. At 14, Long left school to tour with reggae and funk artist Henry Turner Jr. In 2011, he won Guitar Center’s King of the Blues competition, besting 4,000 contestants.
Long’s second album, 2016’s Trying to Get There, showed his expansion beyond blues. Now, album number three—a self-titled projected released by New Orleans blues-rock artist Samantha Fish’s Wild Heart label—sustains Long’s stylistic shift and dedication to songwriting. Classic rock, Southern rock, soul, blues and, perhaps by default, modern country, are all here.
Long’s new songs are good enough to be a source of material for fellow recording artists. His classic rock and Southern rock–leaning songs may be especially appealing to contemporary country acts.
Opening song “Bury Me,” a Southern-rock anthem, elevates the struggles of common men and women into the sphere of majesty. More social commentary appears in “Living the Blues,” a frank depiction of the drowning middle-class. “You’re either rich or you’re living the blues, trying to stretch each dollar to the last damn dime,” Long declares.
“Shine Your Love,” a downhome, heartfelt homage to lost loved ones, is ripe for country radio. “Natural Girl” effectively inhabits the classic and Southern–rock territory of Lynyrd Skynyrd, Foreigner, Bachman–Turner Overdrive and Foghat.
Long and Fish, the album’s producer and guest star, venture into Memphis soul with “That’s When I Knew.” In “Pour Another Drink,” they conjure darkly humorous traditional jazz. But another stylistic departure, the Bruce Hornsby–ish “The Light,” suffers from overactive drumming.
Throughout Jonathon Long, the attention Long gives his vocals does his well-crafted songs justice—especially when Fish and Long sing a duet of Kenny Tudrick’s “The River.” It’s the only song on the album Long didn’t write. Given a grand production, “The River” sounds destined for arena stages.