Eric Long “Looking Up” (Independent, 2020)

Eric Long’s ‘Looking Up’ kicks off with `Everyday’, a song that sounds like the distillation of optimism. The guitar chops a rhythmic line, the stand-up bass chugs and thumps and you’re already feeling good. A shuffling beat and an improvising fiddle in the background arrive and your head is bobbing up and down. If ever there was a time for dancing in the kitchen it is now, and Long unintentionally provides the lyrics with “Why am I not outside dancing / Why’d it take so long to shake these blues”? With a classic call and response chorus it’s the sort of breezy sound that is isolation solace.

It’s a bright, bouncy start but not quite representative of the rest of the album. The other material has a gentler, less ramped up feel to it. The album was recorded live with a band that includes mandolin, fiddle, upright bass and pedal steel, and you can feel informality and ease in the playing. Long sings with a soulful, slightly hoarse vocal style and has a way with neat guitar work throughout.

There’s a range of styles here. ‘Tough Enough’ is a blues song with a strolling bassline and catchy chorus. ‘Baby, Come Dance with Me’ is a classic love song with the familiar lovers’ story of dancing in the rain. Do the subjects of these songs ever say “Err, no thanks. I haven’t got a kagoule”?

‘Bully’ features restrained and thoughtful fiddle work. It doesn’t go where you expect, and is all the more interesting for that. ‘Hypocrite’ is the story of a mismatched couple to a soft rhumba beat and finishes the album with the bold lines “I know that I’m a son of a bitch / But you know that I tried”. These are fine tunes but it is the album opener that stays with you.

So, my suggestion is this. Stand in your kitchen. Pick up that ladle. It will double as a guitar. That mop could work as a stand-up bass. Play ‘Everyday’ quite loud. Dance and enjoy.

A bouncing breezy start followed by a gentler laid-back feel

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