British singer/songwriter Bobby Long came to recognition when his friend Robert Pattinson sang his song "Let Me Sign" (co-written with Marcus Foster) on the soundtrack to the popular teen vampire film Twilight in 2008. A Winter Tale, his debut studio album for ATO Records, demonstrates that he has spent a lot of time listening to early albums by Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, and Johnny Cash, having apparently learned chords and fingerpicking he employs on his guitar, some harmonica playing, and, particularly, his poetic lyric-writing style. His husky singing voice also sounds a bit like the young Dylan, or perhaps more like a less arch Tom Petty. But if Long has captured the style necessary to make him the next New Dylan, he hasn't quite figured out the issue of lyrical content. He tends to write his words in what seems to be a stream-of-conscious style in which, as long as the rhymes come along regularly and the words sound interesting (and he sings them with the appropriate tone), it doesn't much matter what they mean. There is a poetic persona at the heart of his songs, and it's the usual one of the lonely hero, who is romantic himself even if he seems unable to be romantic with a potential loved one at whom the songs are directed. "I'm crazy to love," he declares in "A Passing Tale," "and I'm crazy to die/I'm lost in this world, and I don't know why." In "Two Years Old," he at least seems to have some point to his melancholy; the music may suggest Johnny Cash, but the words suggest Wilfred Owen, the World War I era British poet who died in the trenches, but not before capturing the loss of innocence -- and of life -- suffered in a conflict that seared the conscience of the English people and, to a certain extent, still does. At such a moment, Long isn't just a young man playing with words, but there aren't many moments like it on A Winter Tale.
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AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann