There are certain common experiences musicians are having this year; one of them is a genuine questioning about whether they should continue creating music at all. Upwards Of Summer is the product of one of those moments.
What is satisfying is that in each case, the artists have found inspiration from somewhere to carry on – even if it means self-funding projects. The world would certainly be a less rich place without Ralegh Long’s music in it and I’m not really sure what he imagined doing instead.
Upwards Of Summer is quietly reflective but Long also reveals himself as a man with a sense of humour. In the video for ‘Take Your Mind Back’, Long engages in a pastiche of Womack and Womack with their cheesy studio recordings. What Long offers is accessible intelligent music. The quality of his songwriting acts as protection against his evident sensitivity, ‘all the lonely vistas of your soul.’
This album is the soundtrack of summer. Easy going songs such as ‘Sleeping On My Dreams’, have a strumming guitar and Long’s gentle voice. Other tracks are more obviously evocative. ‘Upwards Of Summer’ itself features a slide guitar and this country edge provides soulful swoops and slides like summer swifts. It is packed with simple, homely images such as a child drinking from a cup. It puts you in mind of lying in a hammock in the garden, straw sunhat drawn over your face. ‘Take It’ is another slice of summer, cucumber dropped in a glass of gin.
‘Big August’ ratchets up the bucolic feel with the addition of a mandolin. The vocals are pushed dreamily to the back of the mix. Long’s performance here is similar to a British Kurt Vile or Ryan Adams. The vocal is broken by poignant pauses and the guitars create the emotional climate. The slide guitars and effects are moving, providing a sense of the internal. Similarly, ‘Heart On The Line’, whilst being much more up-tempo is still inherently melancholic.
‘Into The Woods’ begins with the image of someone in tears. Long sends them into the woods as a healing experience. They must go barefoot as he observes that they are, ‘Walking on leaf mould/Left our shoes at the gate.’ It is a song filled with vivid imagery and a clearly romanticism. ‘The Combine’ doesn’t disappoint as it is indeed about a combine harvester. It’s hardly The Wurzels. Instead it is the end of summer and Long is Keats preparing for autumn.
‘Home’ summarises the album. It is semi-acoustic and expresses how it feels to be ‘where you fit in’. The search for our place and identity is a preoccupation for many us at the moment.
Listen to it whilst running through a wheat field.
Upwards Of Summer will be released on 23rd June 2017 through Make It New Records/Kartel Music Group.