It’s not too often that a contestant on a reality singing competition inspires me to go to iTunes and download an album. Especially a contestant that gets cut. A couple of weeks ago Arizona native Blaine Long hit the stage on The Voice and his buttery-warm vocals won over two of the four coaches. He landed on team Blake but, a week later, was cut from the show with little fanfare. My reality radar likes to think he may be back for the wildcard spot but if not, I’m happy to have found his music.
His ninth album, Can’t Change the Sun, was released in 2015 and currently sits on the Grammy ballot in the Americana category for 2017 first round consideration. There is a warmth to Blaine’s voice and a familiarity in his lyrics that wraps you up like a soft blanket on a cold day. While there aren’t an abundance of highs and lows to his sound, there is an authenticity to these tunes that runs throughout. The production is relatively simple and doesn’t overpower the real sweet spot of his music, which is the rasp and the smoothness of Blaine’s vocals. Being compared to Zach Brown and Van Morrison isn’t a bad place to be when you’re making a name for yourself.
At this point, Blaine has spent his time focused on being an artist and not on promoting himself as an artist. His gig schedule is heavy with local festivals and locations in and around his hometown of Chandler, Arizona. Blaine puts in the time and the work having produced an album a year, for a total of eight albums, prior to this most recent release.
The lyrics on Can’t Change the Sun tell simple stories about life. When writing and working on an album, Blaine says he is constantly collecting thoughts and ideas, and colors and shapes and sounds. On this record, Blaine worked with a co-writer which he hasn’t done before. Both Asylum and Unbreakable are collaborations with former Arizona Attorney General Grant Wood, taking Wood’s lyrics and blending them with Blaine’s music. On While We’re Asleep and Me and Preacher, Blaine took Grant’s songs and performed them in his own style. Something else he is proud of is his spin on John Lennon’s Imagine, which transforms the classic into Country/Bluegrass without losing the lyrical significance.
His family is important, and it has a lot of influence in his music. With Where My Heart Is, a message to his wife, Blaine feels like he got his thoughts out accurately, not in any sort of abstract way. On Dashboard Lullaby, both of his children can be heard singing background tracks. Americana music is defined as an amalgamation of blues, country, jazz, bluegrass or in my opinion, anything that tells a good story in a way that makes people want to listen. Can’t Change the Sun is easy and warm and tells stories without clutter and distraction. If music is a soundtrack for our lives, Blaine’s album is playing in the parts where I’m curled up on a couch with cocoa and a blanket watching the snow.