Old Lost John – Faceless

Old Lost John - Faceless

Old Lost John - Faceless

Malmo, Sweden is where we find our fearless troubadour Old Lost John, the moniker under which Tomas Thunberg resides. His new full length release titled Faceless is rife with the creepiness found in old photographs and campfire, Canterbury style folk tales. With a wispy, Bonnie “Prince” Billy rasp one must lay back and prepare for these 10 tracks.

This new breath of archaic wonderment that is Faceless begins with “Broken”.  Finger picking abounds next to trombone and female vocal accompaniment. “Broken” is part dark mid-night woods saga as well as something you’re comfortable playing in the midst of a friendly gathering. Track two, “Fairies And Fools”, with it’s underlying attempt to bring upon a dance, snaps it’s way through your ears and, dare I say, is lightly brushed with an Irving style Sleepy Hollow promenade. I feel the guests of this party are all spying at each other out of the corners of their eyes, plotting each others demise. Moving on through harsh territories, we’re met with the shining sun of the upbeat “Come Saturday”. This is true love is blind as Thumberg states. A meeting of two people and one must wait for those precious words of reassurance that yes, I felt it too. It’s a struggle maybe we have all been through in wanting something so badly as the love of another. By the end of this three minute jaunt, the listener is not given an answer as to what Saturday had in store for our poor protagonist, but Saturday could possibly be a larger representation of want, need, loss and hope.

An almost haunting cattle call brings us in to track four titled “In From the Cold”. Listening, wide-eyed at the oddity of the blaring horn beneath this lovely, almost silk in its smoothness, question filled number. A paradox perhaps between the boldness of the subject, pairing with the shuttering sound of a shouting horn, one would be quite obtuse as to not notice it’s obviousness. “Tremble” opens with a brief death march accordion. Breathing out in a sad sigh as Thumberg gasps through the words, “I tremble every time I hear your name”. It is a feeling of being overcome with sheer sadness as rustic creaks coast and intertwine their way through this desolate song. Start your head nodding and your foot to tapping as you roll on into track six, “She Won’t Listen”. We find another contradictory tale here, one being the subject matter coupled with the “swinging” musical styling of OLJ. The first words immediately bring you to the depths, “desire is like a loaded gun”. She’s gone so far from falling out of love that she doesn’t even like him anymore. I shake my head and stretch out my welcoming arms to you oh tragic soul, for straying into a world that will only bring you unending sorrow.

“Railway Car” is song I’ve heard countless times on Old Lost John’s myspace page and have patiently awaited it’s release. A chugger, this cool, country laced track moves along just like the title suggests. A send off, “Railway Car” is filled with one man questioning his own integrity. Are things better left unsaid? Would being misunderstood suit the situation any better? Regardless, this is the point where asking yourself these questions become moot, he is saying goodbye, and that is what is deemed to be of utmost importance. “Once I rode an Elephant in to a China shop, I just couldn’t help myself, I just couldn’t stop”. We’re privy to these explosive lines within track eight, “Nothing Good”. OLJ spends the next four minutes taking ownership for all that he is, of course one wonders if the autobiographical connotations are if fact based on truth. The revelation we find in “Nothing Good” is nothing short of the ability for a human being to step back and look outside the situation and recognize their faults.

“And She Looked Down” is shrouded in mystery and one listens with skepticism as you imagine three steady knocks upon the door. Again, an aura of wonder surrounds this track. What was the note that made her shiver?  Who was the man at her door with a blackbird on his shoulder, two foxes at his feet?. Like another of OLJ’s tales we’re left to wonder how it ends and in this case are left with only howling rain. The final track on Faceless leaves us as we began, to wonder. In “Dagger Dagger” the only thing we know is the fall of the dagger. A murderous tone illuminates the track as well as a surprising mid-song tonal switch that reminds me of the shock I felt in hearing the John Phillips song “Mississippi”.  The track ends with a final shuffle and bang, like the closing of a casket. What a wonderful image to encapsulate the overall feeling of this record.

I’m left in utter awe at the ten tracks on Faceless. Old Lost John has really embraced the overall rustic, cabin-esque, backwoods feel that any hauntingly beautiful folk record should be happen to posses. With a low, grainy vocal styling, OLJ soothes the listener and at the same time haunts and bewilders. At no time during Faceless was I not enthralled and completely entranced with every note, as well as every tale. Faceless is ten tracks that amaze, and Sweden has a gift, that we all need to notice and embrace.

Brad Tilbe About Brad Tilbe

I am 35 years old. I was born and raised in Central New York. I currently reside in Seattle, WA.