Despite the best efforts of many a record label, it’s still almost impossible to hear “folk” mentioned in a musical context without it projecting images of old white men, fiddles and corduroy. Yet, essentially, this form of music is as old as time itself, at least in the sense of storytelling and hand-made instruments. JohnlikeJohn is a welcome reminder, not only of why it remains an incredibly relevant artform. but also how it can reach levels of emotion and humour other genres just can’t reach.
In the manner of both Robert Wyatt and Tom Waits, he sings in a troubadour-fashion, issuing warnings, observations and humourous asides, without necessarily making it abundantly clear which bits you should be laughing or or shedding tears to. It’s thoroughly involving and demands repeated listens, both to clarify in your own mind what you take from the song, as well as to relish in the clever wordplay and enormously catchy melodies.
Standouts include “A Slice of Culture”, a stomping polka which leads to the refrain, “I could not care less”. It’s something of an effort not to sing along under your breath, not recommended if you’re at work or on the bus. It’s an extremely full, almost orchestral sound, yet delving down, there’s little more than percussion, deftly-plucked guitar and JohnlikeJohn’s own, piercingly precise enunciation – it’s quite unlike anything else. More poignant is “I’m Scared Too”, a much sparser piece with ghostly voices speaking of the very real horror of depression.
We really do recommend this – not only satisfying but thought-provoking and touching. The power of the human voice and imagination should not be underestimated, it’s a force that’s needed as much now as it’s ever been.