By Tim Sommer
To many earthlings, Long Island music means Twisted Sister, Billy Joel, Mountain, and the almighty Blue Öyster Cult. There’s nothing wrong with that. But there’s a far greater variety to the rich sounds that emanate from this beautiful shark-shaped spit of land sitting in the Atlantic.
To underline that, one needs look no further than a place in Amagansett called Crossroads Music, and a North Fork troubadour named Robert Bruey.
For over a decade, Crossroads Music has been the little store on the South Fork where musicians gathered to shop – and talk shop – change strings and exchange songs. It has been the anchor of a community chiming with the ring of a thousand guitars and resonating with the sound of a thousand different voices.
“Crossroads isn’t in it for money, they’re in it for the love of the music,” says Robert Mr. Bruey, a gifted singer-songwriter with a worldwide reputation. Bruey is just one of the many musicians – from veteran string-benders to ukulele-wielding newbies – who will be sad to see Crossroads go when it closes in a few months. “I’ll tell you, they are the real deal.”
Mr. Bruey will be performing at Crossroads on the evening of Tuesday, November 10. The gig not only gives the artist the opportunity to celebrate the role the store has played in his life, but it also gives Crossroads a chance to thank loyal and well-known customers like Mr. Bruey for their years of support.
“It is a way of honoring (Crossroads owner) Michael Clark – he is always doing something for the community,” Bruey continues. “It would be foolish to say that we do things completely altruistically, obviously, but there is a certain grace that’s at that store, and in the way they operate, and Michael comes close to a pretty pure altruistic spirit.”
The many musical sons and daughters of Crossroads will continue to spread melody and rhythm across the Island and all over the world. Mr. Bruey is one of those who will carry that spirit far and wide.
The artist plays elegiac folk-soul, recalling the deep-hearted and full-throated chime of Dave Matthews and Edwin McCain. His two albums, last year’s “Carousel” and 2011’s “Silver Burning Sky,” are elegant, passionate, agile and accomplished. Simultaneously adamant and atmospheric, Mr. Bruey’s music conjures the spirit of everything from Fairport Convention to Led Zeppelin, with the beautiful oddity of Damien Rice and Skip Spence somewhere in there, too. With lyrics and landscapes that recall the dreams, hopes, and melancholy of a late-summer, early evening carnival, somehow the titles of his two albums speak volumes.
It’s a little hard to easily pin down exactly what Mr. Bruey does, and that’s just fine by him.
“When I write,” he notes, “I don’t say to myself ‘This is going to be a country song, this is going to be a rock and roll song.’ Whatever I’m writing is basically how I’m feeling at that particular moment, that’s what comes out, and I need it to be as genuine as possible, otherwise for me it’s fake, and I don’t want to be fake.”
“I’m too old to be fake,” he laughs. “I’m not searching for somebody else’s voice. There are a lot of influences, of course, but it’s all me, too.”
Despite his roots in Americana, rock, and even archival folk, Mr. Bruey is well aware that the 21st century poses interesting challenges – and advantages – for a modern troubadour.
“There are a lot more places to play,” Mr. Bruey says, “but there are also a lot more musicians and singer-songwriters because of the Internet, and people can now record so easily. There are so many people out there that I think the venues are getting bombarded with people wanting to play, so you really have to keep your game up as far as social media, your web site, all that sort of stuff. There’s definitely an audience, and a good audience, but you really need to maintain a presence, otherwise you just get lost in the shuffle of so many different people.”
Nevertheless, Mr. Bruey retains an optimistic attitude. “It’s working for me in so much as I love the journey. I’m not looking to become a millionaire doing it, I’ll tell you that. We look forward to the adventure of it, not to sell a million records or anything, but enjoy the art of it, and the sense of community. The people who are going to come listen to this music want to listen to it, and that’s good. I don’t want to go to places where they’re not listening to the words – they can just listen to a drum beat if they want to do that.”
Bruey is honored to pay tribute to the legacy of Crossroads Music, and he has a keen sense of the role Crossroads played in the musical life of the East End, and how it will be sorely missed.
“Even people who aren’t musicians may be musical, or like the thought of music, and having music and places like Crossroads in their community is so important. It’s not like it’s a video store, we’re talking about something different here, there’s an artistic value to it. If I lived in Amagansett, I would send my children over there and say ‘Go buy instruments, go buy something and be creative,’ as opposed to just saying, ‘here’s a video game, go sit there and play that.’ I think that’s what will be missed.”
Robert Bruey will be appearing on Tuesday, November 10 at 8 p.m. at Crossroads Music, 160 Main Street, Amagansett. (631) 907-4838 or www. crossroadsmusicstore.com. Admission is $20 and Reservations are required. Mr. Bruey will also be performing on November 14th at 7 PM in Port Jefferson Station at the Homegrown Music Café, 300 Terryville Rd. www.homegrownmusiccafe.com.