Old Lost John "Bringing Down The Sky"
Tomas Thurnberg, the prime mover behind Old Lost John gained rave reviews for his 2009 release “Faceless”, hailed as a “folk noire” masterpiece. Two years on he presents us with this follow up which is as fine a set of wintry bare boned tales as we’ve heard in a long time.
With his gravelled voice, guitar and mandolin, Thurnberg is supported by a skeletal crew playing banjo, violin, ronroco (a Peruvian lute) and occasional trombone. There are backing vocals on three of the songs but the overall sound is sparse and pared with atmospheric sound effects at times including thunder and wooden creaking. There are elements of dark Appalachian ballads here but at times one is reminded of English folk of the sixties from the likes of Bert Jansch while the wheezy Into The Bone could have come from the pen of Tom Waits.
Opening song Satan’s Got You Down is misleading. With its banjo and fiddle playing it’s the most American sounding song here and despite the lyrical warnings about the temptations of the devil it trots along at a fair pace. After this the record delves into darker spaces at a crawl. There are chilling pieces such as Smooth Lover with its running away theme and Scarecrow where the singer appears to crave peace and solitude. Bruised love appears time and again on the album be it the Jansch like Sparkle and rain, the folky death ballad of Gallow’s Hill or the rippling Make It Last. Overall the album has an air of mystery compounded by the opaque lyrics and atmospheric music. It deserves full attention and grows and envelops one like mildew in a dark and abandoned house.