From the late 90s onwards, there was a trend towards making albums longer, filling them with tracks that should have been left in the studio or adding “bonus tracks” to UK versions to justify the greater price of CDs in the UK over the US. Thankfully, due in part I am sure by the return of vinyl to desired formats, this is no longer the case in the most part. With their debut album, Long Way To The Ground, The Blue Highways have kept it short – 10 tracks and under 37 minutes – and it is all the better for it.
The album is a bit like its opening track – building from a slow, soft start into a crescendo before ending leaving you with a chorus stuck in your head, but not in an unpleasant way.
Tear Drops In A Storm opens the album. It is one of the more melancholic songs, showcasing lead singer Callum Lury’s vocals beautifully (some what reminiscent of Joe Cocker here). It then moves onto a more upbeat tune, Blood On Your Hands – as long as you don’t listen to the lyrics, naturally – then a new arrangement of on of their early releases, Thin Air. Thin Air, has a definite air of the americana genre the guys have been categorised as. Mixing great guitar with some nice two-part harmonies and a feel of the open road.
He Worked and Matter of Love, which featured on he EP they released last summer, are included. Both are songs that have good uptempo beats, and have you tapping you foot and singing along after a few listens.
Previously unreleased tracks include Long Way To The Ground – probably the darkest on the album – Cover Me, Borderline and Berwick Street. Long Way To The Ground is one of those songs that makes you stop and listen. The addition of younger brother Ewan to the harmonies works beautifully, making the song even fuller than it would have been with just the two-part harmony that is standard for The Blue Highways. The guitar part on this song is reminiscent of something else – if you can figure out, please share! Cover Me features a nice guitar intro followed by slow vocals from Callum and keyboard accompaniment. This song – one of the softer, slower songs on the album – has echos of Bruce Springsteen (who songwriter Callum Lury quotes as an influence), and sits well at this spot in the order. Whilst Borderline is a bit more americana than classic rock, and is one of the more explicit storytelling songs, it is typical in terms of its upbeat nature with sad lyrics of the songs on this album. Berwick Street – another featuring the horns section as well as a great wall of sound – has the greatest London sound to it, with something The Kinks in there, and featuring one Soho amongst its characters.
The album ends with Have You Seen My Baby. With some great slide guitar and a good beat, along with good instrumentation and vocals, whilst no longer than it needs to be, it is what you expect from the band and the prefect last track.
This promising debut is what you want from an album – great songs, lyrics to sing along to, some toe tapping tunes, great musicianship and leaves you wanting more.