I'm Coming Home

St. Thomas

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I'm Coming Home Review

by Bryan Thomas

Norwegian singer/songwriter Thomas Hansen (aka St. Thomas) was a postman who quit his day job a while back, shortly after his brittle and haunting Confederate country-pop songs started climbing the pop charts in his native Oslo, Norway. That fact alone reveals something about the slightly off-kilter Hansen, and it certainly doesn't sound like anything that would happen in the U.S., not in this century anyway. Hansen isn't a solo artist, per se. He's backed by the Bjorhaug 49'ers, who provide wobbly organ, fiddle, and banjos on nearly every track on I'm Coming Home, but what really stands out is his faltering, skittish falsetto, which immediately brings to mind early-'70s solo recordings by Neil Young. There are also occasional hints that he's listened to more recent efforts by Will Oldham's Palace, Bill Callahan's Smog, and Jeff Mangum's Neutral Milk Hotel, three independent-spirited indie artists who've similarly derived influence from traditional Appalachian folk music. Most of Hansen's songs veer toward the otherworldly, even as they're tethered to the earth by those fragile banjo strings. There's a real earnestness and earthy naturalism here that might seem incongruous but, make no mistake, St. Thomas is the real deal, however geographically removed he may be from the Smoky Mountains. These slouchy waltzes ("She Married a Cowboy") and pretty porch-swing melodies waver with true emotional resonance. St. Thomas' rare up-tempo turns, "The Cool Song," "Bookstore," and "Cornerman," are catchy and endearing, and Hansen's lyrics are often somewhat funny. Even the short elliptical bio on Hansen in the CD's inside tray card will make you chuckle: "St. Thomas is 25 years old. He was born in Oslo. He gets warm if you appreciate his music. Please take care of him." Originally released by the hip Racing Junior imprint in Norway, I'm Coming Home was licensed for wider distribution by Misra.

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