Ralegh Long — Hoverance
•♦• Inspired by English mysticism and the glories of nature, Ralegh Long registers at the more esoteric end of the male singer–songwriter spectrum
•♦• “He seems incapable of sitting at a piano and coming up with anything that doesn’t tremble with almost mystical longing ... you’ll be reminded variously of Nilsson, early Todd Rundgren, even Alex Chilton at his most overwrought and wracked.” — Paul Lester, The Guardian
Location: London, England, UK
Album release: 6 April, 2015
Record Label: Gare du Nord Records
01 Gulls Hovering 1:47
02 Islands 2:09
03 The Light of the Sun 4:01
04 The Lizard 2:21
05 All the Leaves Are Gone 3:55
06 Song for Matthew 3:01
07 No Use 3:07
08 Love Kills All Fear 3:01
09 The Ride 4:51
10 Beginning the World 2:23
•♦• Ralegh Long often with Will Lamport — Drums
•♦• Richard Ellis — Bass, backing vocals
•♦• Jack Hayter — Pedal Steel
•♦• Ed Ellis — Piano, backing vocals
By James Hopkin | 13 Mar 2015 | Score: 4/5
•♦• The 1970s were undoubtedly the decade of the singer–songwriter; think Jackson Browne, Harry Nilsson, Joni Mitchell, James Taylor, Randy Newman — the list could go on indefinitely. So it is that, a few months into 2015, there is a sense that the spirit of the 70s singer–songwriter is ghosting its way into the fringes of popular music. From the piano–lead balladry of Tobias Jesso, Jr. to the perfectly orchestrated compositions which make up Natalie Prass' debut album, it appears as if up and coming artists are drawing heavily on the ethos of the 70s singer–songwriter. So, whilst being careful not to immediately lump his debut album alongside those of his contemporaries, Ralegh Long's 'Hoverance', released on Gare Du Nord, is made up of intimate and personal songs firmly channelled through a 1970s filter. What's more, a quick Google images search will reveal that he even looks a little like Nick Drake.
•♦• With Tom Dougall of TOY on guitar, ex–Hefner member Jack Hayter on the steel pedal and Louis–Phillipe, who has worked with such acts as The Clientele and The High Llamas, on string arrangement duties, the record certainly isn't short of expert input. Lead single 'Islands' opens with a piano–lead chord progression before vocals are introduced alongside thumping drums and Hayter's quivering steel pedal. The opening lyrics, “I went walking in the stream, I dreamt of islands floating too” are delivered in Long's delicate yet mature tone. The rural imagery is a predominant presence throughout the album with tracks such as ‘Gulls Hovering’, ‘All the Leaves are Gone’ and ‘The Light of The Sun’ all offering comments on the natural world. But Long isn’t just a soppy romantic penning an ode to the countryside, his lyrics have an air of mystery about them, transporting you into a surreal domain away from any urban point of reference. In ‘No Use’ he sings, “I wanted the sky to fall on me” before discussing futile relationships and lost loves.
•♦• The ethereal steel pedal set alongside the rich piano parts and tender harmonies perfectly complement the magical, often other–worldly, lyrical content whilst the faultless production and lush orchestration reinforce the influence of the early 70s and, more specifically, the seamless studio rock sound adopted at that time. Moreover, Long's melancholic leanings on 'Song For Matthew' and his delicate guitar picking on instrumental track 'The Lizard' immediately bring to mind the fragility and vulnerability central to many of Nick Drake's compositions.
•♦• So, although Ralegh Long is in good company when it comes to current singer–songwriters looking back to their 1970s predecessors for inspiration, 'Hoverance' is wholly unique in that it effortlessly combines images of rural landscapes, surreal metaphors and stories of loves lost and found. The result of which is a hypnotic, escapist listen, and a debut album which bodes well not only for Ralegh Long but also for the 70s singer–songwriter revival which is gradually gaining momentum. •♦• http://www.contactmusic.com/
By Alan Ashton–Smith | Posted on 1 Apr 2015 | Score: ****
•♦• Ralegh Long’s discography to date consists of two EPs: Sprawl, which was released in 2011, and The Gift, from 2012. Both included tracks that were improvised and recorded in one take: a dubious thing for a singer–songwriter to admit, but Long clearly has a remarkable ear and a powerful sense of a song as a whole, since you’d be hard pressed to identify which tracks were made up on the spot.
•♦• Two and a half years later his debut album arrives, and that gap is deceptive. It certainly doesn’t sound as though Hoverance took two and a half years to conceive, write and record. That might come across as critical but it’s not: Hoverance doesn’t feel rushed, but it does feel very much of a certain place, and of a certain time.
•♦• So what is that place, and what is that time? The album is presented as being in the English pastoral tradition, and that goes some way towards locating it, but there is more to it than that. Although the album was recorded in London, Long retreated to the countryside to write it. But this is not all rolling hills, golden fields and blue skies. The beauty that those clichés imply is certainly present, but alongside the romantic elements there are signs of a more mundane landscape.
•♦• For a start, this is a very slight album, only running to half an hour. Long is clearly not going for grand scale, or a sense of the sublime. The instrumentation is also restrained: there might be warm currents of strings and woodwind at times, but the songs are primarily led along by a very honest and unpretentious sounding piano. And the lyrics sometimes reference the rural landscape, but are generally more universal than that.
•♦• Long has been held up being part of a revival of the seventies singer–songwriter tradition that’s currently underway, and he’s been placed alongside American counterparts like Natalie Prass and Father John Misty. Long might be harking back to same decade, and the slide guitar that’s a feature throughout Hoverance might be a nod towards Americana, but in fact he’s doing something rather different to those artists. The soul and blues traditions that they draw on are quite absent here, shunned in favour of folk, baroque pop and maybe an implicit allusion or two towards a very English psychedelia.
•♦• The comparisons with Nick Drake and early Todd Rundgren are closer to the mark. The wistfulness of those artists is there in songs like No Use (which also featured on The Gift EP) and All The Leaves Are Gone. But there are other moods too, some more humble, some wilder. Opening track Gulls Hovering, which inspires the album’s title, is almost a vignette; at just under two minutes, it’s like a sketch for a landscape painting. Opening with a string section and Long’s unfussy vocals, and ending with a rising flute, it recalls, in a strange way, Badly Drawn Boy’s The Hour Of Bewilderbeast. The guitar–based instrumental The Lizard, meanwhile, could a cut from one of Matt Berry’s somewhat eerie psych–folk explorations.
•♦• The final track, Beginning Of The World, is another improvised piece, and it beings with just Long’s voice — at times he’s a dead ringer for his friend Darren Hayman — and his piano, and a slightly lo–fi atmosphere that’s no doubt explained by the fact that he recorded it at his home. But slide guitar is overdubbed as the song develops, and this almost represents Hoverance in microcosm: at its heart it’s an album made up of fresh, simple songs, but they are formed into something fuller and more meaningful through judicious use of melodies, phrases and allusions.
Paul Lester, Friday 6 February 2015 15.43 GMT