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From Keeping The Blues Alive to Kenlake
By Lew Jetton
AURORA - Aurora, KY: To get an idea of how respected guitarist Jonathon Long is, consider he's headed to this year's Kenlake Hot August Blues Festival, fresh off appearing on Joe Bonamassa's Keeping The Blues Alive Cruise in the Mediterranean.  Long hits the stage Friday, August 23rd at the Kenlake Hot August Blues Festival. 

For Jonathon Long, the road to Samantha Fish’s Wild Heart Records wound along the Big Muddy through Baton Rouge, where young guitar players travel to learn from and experience the legacy left there by the likes of Buddy Guy, Kenny Neal, Tabby Thomas, Lightnin’ Slim and so many others who fueled that vibrant blues scene going back decades into the last century.

Baton Rouge born Jonathon Long has claimed his own share of that legacy. He has mined, refined and re-defined his beloved blues for more than half his life. The shuffles and homages to the King’s and Collins’s, along with his mastery of the red Gibson, have evolved into what will certainly be a milestone in that legacy, his third album, titled simply ‘Jonathon Long’.

Recorded in post-Mardi Gras New Orleans earlier this year at NOLA Recording Studios, his latest album,  Jonathon Long’ produced by 2018 Contemporary Female Blues Artist of the Year Samantha Fish, is an extra-ordinary collection of 11 songs, all written by Jonathon save for ‘The River’, written by Detroit’s Kenny Tudrick, a Samantha Fish cohort and drummer for the Detroit Cobras. Long is joined on the record by bandmates Chris Roberts on bass and Jullian Civello on drums, giving it a ‘live in the studio’ sonic signature.  

He explains: “We went into the studio with the idea of a more cohesive effort with a collection of completed songs, rather than just tunes to jam on; all of the songs and the arrangements were written beforehand, and we went through a bunch of tunes one by one to select those that made the record.”  The end result is an album which stayed on the Blues charts a long time, and launched what was already a successful career to the next level. 

Such focus and determination are nothing new with Jonathon, a working musician before he was old enough for a learners-permit to drive. He’s absorbed from and shared the stage with masters like B.B. King, won a nationwide blues guitar unsigned artist contest, produced his own instructional videos, is a regular at the Blues Tent at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival and stays on the road, playing concerts, clubs and festivals here and abroad to a passionate and growing fan base.

Says Jonathon: “You can’t be hesitant, you have to own it; everything that I do is to stress the positive, to connect with people in a positive way; I try to be an artist who doesn’t follow the textbook rules on being an artist, by not trying to write songs that appeal to the masses; I’m just trying to tell the stories and the truths as I see them and how I believe.”

The songs on Jonathon Long range from straight ahead blues, to stories of heartbreak, yearning, hope and redemption, to a drinking song. His own spirituality is front and center, but in a positive, non-preachy manner.

“Everyone has their own image of what a perfect world should be; my goal is not to persuade what to believe, or convert anyone, but to have people hear and realize you can do what you want, have fun, and find ways to peaceably coexist with the other people in this world. We are never about negative anything. We want to show up, bring on the heat, and have it all come together through the music,” he tells.

And that brings us to his former nickname, Boogie. He explains “I’m not just a boogie-woogie blues artist. There was a time I played a lot of shuffles, but now I’m in a different blues genre. I’ve been Boogie since two years old, and now it’s time to be just Jonathon Long,”

The 30th Edition of the Kenlake Hot August Blues Festival runs Friday and Saturday, August 23rd and 24th at Kenlake State Park in Aurora, Kentucky. Friday night's lineup features John Sutton, Alonzo Pennington and the Xtra Ordinary Gentlemen, and Jonathon Long with gates opening at 3 and music beginning at 6. . Saturday, August 24th, the gates open at 10AM, with music beginning at 11 with Olivia Faye, followed by Nightfish, The Gough-Martin Blues Band, The Beat Daddys, Boscoe France, Big Al and the Heavyweights, The Memphis All Stars, Reba Russell and Joanna Connor. A limited number of discount tickets are available at KenlakeBlues.com. Charities which benefit from the Hot August Blues Festival include the Marshall County Rescue Squad, The Shriner's  Children's Hospitals and the Knights of Columbus. 

Published 11:09 AM, Thursday Jul. 11, 2019
Updated 09:34 PM, Friday Jul. 12, 2019

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