Review: Michael Perry and the Long Beds drop new song ‘Forty Acres Deep’

Taylor Scott, Managing Editor

A still from the music video for “Forty Acres Deep”, Michael Perry’s latest release.

Local favorite and New Auburn, Wisconsin native Michael Perry and his band, the Long Beds, have released a new single, ‘Forty Acres Deep’. A music video accompanies the new single, visually telling a dark and familiar story that draws the listener hopelessly in.

For those unfamiliar with his work, the biography on his website describes him as “an accidental New York Times bestselling author, humorist, and playwright.” His memoirs include, but aren’t limited to: Population 485, Truck: A Love Story, Coop, and Visiting Tom. You may know him from his novel, The Jesus Cow

Perry has visited the Spring Green area in the past to do readings at Arcadia Books. You can find him every week in “Roughneck Grace,” a weekly column that runs in the Wisconsin State Journal. He has collaborated on several projects with musician and Wisconsin native Justin Vernon, of Bon Iver, whom we recently covered for his work on Taylor Swift’s recent albums, folklore and evermore.

‘Forty Acres Deep’ is an immediate departure from the folksy, bluegrass, easy summer listenin’ style we’re accustomed to in Perry’s early discography. The comments on the music video are quick to point out that the new song is “thick, heart haunting, compellingly on the edge.” We concur. ‘Forty Acres Deep’ is haunting, but beautiful, a path Perry started exploring in his 2019 album, Long Road to You.

Perry’s vocals enter jarringly, but not unpleasantly, against the initially upbeat instrumentals, setting the stage for the rest of the song. Setting the listener up for an unexpected ride along with the passing headlights of a story that evokes the frustrations many share in these uncertain times. The song is undeniably rural and dark, bluegrass-come-rock, and yet you’ll want to listen again and again, picking up new aspects of the story with each rendition.   

We’ll give Perry the last word:

“This song began with me scribbling down the phrase ‘forty acres deep’ one day.

On a map, forty acres are flat. But when you come from my rural roughneck background, ‘forty acres deep’ made me think of being in debt to the bank, being isolated, being in a position where you’ve committed to something so deeply you can’t escape it.

I wrote the earliest drafts of this song using a Telecaster and a fuzzbox/overdrive pedal. I was trying to learn power chords and write a rock song. I had this vision of a man driving to the center of a farm field and pitching a diamond ring into the wheat. It got to where there were something like fifteen verses. I worked on it for a while and let it go. Mainly because it just didn’t feel right, me trying to sing in a rock style.

A few years later, my friend Evan Middlesworth shared a riff and rhythm track he’d recorded and wondered if I had any lyrics to fit it. I immediately thought of ‘Forty Acres Deep.’ I slashed and burned the lyrics, cut them back to the bare unforgiving bones of the story. Then instead of trying to sing like someone I’m not, I just went with the darkness, and sang in the mind of yet another farmer losing yet another farm, and – even more importantly – the price paid behind the scenes by the rest of the family.”