Hailing from Down Under hasn’t been any sort of problem for The Long & Short of It to compose and play convincing American country music. They are far from purists. There’s an ample blues sound present in the duo’s music, but David Baird and Patsy Toop’s long collaboration under this moniker joins the growing ranks of successful acts from far-flung locations who’ve adopted the “Nashville” sound every bit as convincing as their American counterparts.
Their new album Midnight Choir underlines this. The duo’s vocal duets are the spotlight element of their presentation. Each singer, however, does take the “lead” on an assortment of tunes, though. The opener “Cowboy Lonesome” kicks off the song in a deeply felt and luxurious fashion that embraces traditional motifs without ever sounding beholden to them. There’s something very contemporary in the lyrical content, even if it turns on a central conceit (the idea that being lonesome like a cowboy is the worst kind of lonesome) that’s simple and straightforward.
The next two tracks, however, take listeners into decidedly rockier terrain. Country never remains far from their stylistic reach, it’s a part of everything The Long & Short of It does. “Midnight Choir” and “Three Chords and the Brew” are boisterous musical affairs steeped in country honky-tonk and blues but a closer listen to the lyrics for each reveals higher sensibilities. The latter track, in particular, indulges in a bit of musical sleight of hand. It comes across as a simple drinking song, in some ways, but read between the lines. It’s The Long & Short Of It reflecting with wry humor on what success in their musical world requires these days and finding its demands wearisome and ridiculous. It doesn’t stop listeners from having a good time, however, listening to it.
“Forever Girl” puts the focus on one of their biggest strengths – memorable choruses. The chorus for this song is a culmination of sorts that pays off well for listeners and encourages you to keep listening. There’s perhaps a poppier side of this song that purist listeners will want to dismiss but give it a fair hearing and it’s bound to impress. Their work sounds effortless. “A Little Love Will Fix You Up” is another standout moment notable for many reasons, but its relaxed confidence will light up all but the most cynical listeners. It gives us another example of the band’s penchant for choruses that stick in the memory.
The eloquent piano and powerful vocal chemistry between Baird and Toop elevate “24-7-365”. It’s one of the album’s most mature moments as well. Baird’s voice is in especially fine fettle here, but the cut would be missing a great deal without Toop providing her voice as a near-ideal emotional contrast. “Beers a Must” is going to be a flat-out winner anywhere they play and has great promise as a sing-along concert number. If anyone thinks this sort of song is a come down for the duo, they clearly don’t care as you can hear they are having the time of their life. It serves notice that they are intent on doing things their way and it’s one of the many qualities that make The Long & Short of It’s Midnight Choir an essential 2022 release.