The Vagabond Philosopher Steve Bonham is creating a musical stir both with his band The Long Road and with an increasing number of solo appearances.
Described as a combination of ‘Woody Guthrie, Bill Bryson and Don Quixote’ (!!!), Steve’s quest is to take the raw ingredients of Folk, Americana and roots to conjure up some ‘moonshine’ music – something new and different but definitely in the spirit of what was and will ever be.
Steve is a guy who regularly hits the trail and his songs and stories spring from the dust and adventure of the road and from the people he meets along the way.
His journeys have taken him, mostly on foot, through the great forests of the southern states of the US and then a trip along the music road, from Ashville to Nashville and New Orleans and exploring the backroads of New Mexico.
They have resulted in him being followed by Moroccan secret police dressed in djellabas and riding Velocette motorbikes, down the Draa valley on the desert side of the Atlas Mountains; sleeping in a hollowed-out mound of ice called a quinzee on the frozen lakes of Ontario and riding around Greek islands on a motorbike with his underpants drying on the handlebars.
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Steve’s songs are of outlaws, ghost towns, the emigrant, the doomed lover, the extraordinary lives of ordinary people real and imagined.
His performances are intimate and expansive, funny and moving all at the same time. Solo and with his band he has released nine albums with a new EP American Wilderness released in Oct 2019.
He has sold out at Wigtown Festival in Scotland; reduced WAME FM in North Carolina to hysterics; delivered a performance described as at The Little Museum of Dublin as ‘inspiring’; driven 2000 miles to do five gigs in five days in Germany.
As Roisin Ingles of the Irish Times wrote: “He doesn’t just talk the talk, he walks the walk.”
The heart of America and the spirit of adventure are explored in two incredible collections of songs, The Girl With The Rattlesnake Heart and Reliance, and a new book. Based upon Steve’s trek through Appalachia and the forests of Georgia, Tennessee and North Carolina, followed by a road trip from Asheville to Nashville and New Orleans, this is spirited, maverick music with an edge and a heart.
The Girl with The Rattlesnake Heart
The Girl with The Rattlesnake Heart takes a few simple ingredients and spirits them up into edgy, raw 'moonshine' music. It’s Renegade Americana … songs like the title track, ‘Last in Line’ and ‘The One I Loved Before’ conjure up an America of brooding landscapes; the outlaw and the rebel, the lonesome battle against fate. A land where the ghosts of the Cherokee wander along ‘The Trail of Tears’ and a motorcycle roars into a desert sunset in ‘The Ballad of the Dragon’s Tail’. These are songs of dark memories and courage – this is acoustic music at full throttle.
Reliance keeps its feet close to the dirt music of the backwoods; a mix of self-composed and favourites of the band played with a jug of whiskey at their side. It’s music of the silver dollar and a fire under the stars. Dylan’s ‘The Girl from the Red River Shore’ meets the ‘Moroccan Song’ – a tale of a Californian girl hiding out in the Sahara Desert. ‘Emeline’ the riverboat chugs away from the troubles of the world and the vagabond leaves his bag behind the couch. And somewhere on a broken porch swing, the poet sits watching ‘Hummingbirds’ and remembers the girl by the sea. It’s a collection of songs where the surprising intimacy of banjo, Cajon, guitar, tuba and sometimes piano rings true. And where, in the end, Diamond and the Gambling Man hit the long-lost trail.
In October 2019, Steve released the EP "American Wilderness" as he and his friends continue to explore the myth, moonshine and madness of America. The EP features songs to be included in a forthcoming album of the same name. The EP consists of three tracks: "Wrapped Up In You", "Interstate 25" and the epic "American Wilderness". All tracks are written by Steve who performs alongside his trusty compadres Kev Moore and Chris 'the Bishop' Lydon.
"American Wilderness" was followed in May 2020 by the EP "Moonshine Elegy". It's for the outlaw, the rebel, the individual, the hobo, the maverick within. The songs are of the trail and the road, the backwoods and the wilderness. Steve Bonham and The Long Road are for you if you like your music raw, powerful, mysterious and timeless taking ingredients from Americana, blues, alternative country, folk, roots, and acoustic. It's a little swampy with a touch of fire.
After the hugely successful first two EPs in this series: American Wilderness and Moonshine Elegy, the band released the third ‘Out of the Darkness’ in October 2020. This is americana, roots, folk music but not as we have ever heard it before. The band have deepened and darkened their sound and whilst sticking to their focus on acoustic instruments predominating, some of these tracks are well, damned heavy.
After two years work, and the writing and recording of 15 songs, the American Wilderness Project comes to a close with the release of the final four tracks on an EP titled ‘Looking for Gold’. If the previous release, Out of the Darkness, looked into the shadows, Looking for Gold – is more optimistic, albeit with a touch of realism.
So this is it. We have explored what we came to call the moonshine, the myth and the madness of it all. Moonshine? Taking a few simple ingredients and conjure something raw and potent. Myth? Immersing ourselves in the legend of America that has so beguiled the world. And the Madness? Discovering the America that lies within a monster and an angel, and is a place of shape-shifters, where lawmen become outlaws and outlaws turn to the light.
The result is the four EPs which combine to form the American Wilderness Oddyssey. 15 songs, 15 months and one incredible journey.
”We really believed we were onto something and became obsessed with creating a cycle of songs as a kind of personal voyage of discovery through the American Heartlands. It was a kind of ‘let’s do this!’ moment! We could see at one level this was ‘nuts’. We had no backing, limited funds and didn’t even know if there was a real audience for what we were about to do. But we knew we had to let the genie in and see what happened…”
Steve is supported by the team at Country Music Social Media and his song The Girl With The Rattlesnake Heart is included on their compilation CD volume 2 with Hummingbirds on volume 3 and Wrapped Up In You on volume 4.