Jon-Olov Woxlin - 'Act Aloof'
On our contact page for music submissions, we do promise we'll listen to everything, and we certainly do, mostly putting released album submissions on a Spotify Playlist and trying to get to know them over a couple of weeks. In the case of Swedish songwriter Jon-Olov Woxlin, his album 'Act Aloof' has been sitting on the playlist for months, and it's therefore had more listens than almost anything. The only reason I haven't reviewed it, is that I don't necessarily claim to be an expert on the Americana / Country / Folk style that he writes (well I don't claim to be an expert on anything, but particularly this genre), and I wasn't sure I'd be able to do the album justice.
But the reality is that I like the album, and most specifically the lyrics, which straight from the beginning launch into a biting introduction to the album title: 'Your lawn is messy filled with trash, you're suffering from some obscure rash, you're looking stupid just like a goof, don't take it hard just act aloof.' And of course, immediately Jon-Olov Woxlin has my attention.
The album is written very much in that Americana storytelling style, direct and at times harshly comical in its approach. And the tales are fascinating, 'The ballad of Carl Henry' (no, not the former Wolves footballer), tells the story of a rogue outlaw and his escape from jail, whilst the most moving song is 'Ninette', a Romanian beggar who 'lives not in life, but in some version of death.... whilst politicians make their way through the forest of ignorance and greed'. It's powerfully written and for me the song is the highlight of the album - typically for me given it's probably the darkest too.
The tales continue with 'Joey the Deserter', - 'Joey was a product of Uncle Sam, he was taught how to spot a red' - and yes, already you know where this one's heading. 'It's a Matriarchy' continues with the clever lyrics, whilst 'CoBra' is probably my favourite track musically, with a lilting tune and particularly fascinating guitar playing. 'The album ends with 'Atheistic Street', an accompanying harmonica and each lyric line is just so carefully and cleverly written - 'Just how many times have you heard the church bells sound, echoing for the ones who've never changed their minds?'
OK, so this is written in such a distinct America Country Folk style, with each track based around similarly styled intricate guitar picking, that you'll only really appreciate the full album if you simply like this genre of music. But even if you don't, please try and add a track such as 'Ninette' on to your latest playlist, because it is really a thought provoking, memorable song. And in general the lyrics are amongst my favourite of any album that I've heard in the last year, because Jon-Olov Woxlin is a thoughtful storyteller, in the traditions of all the best old songwriters. Hopefully a few of you out there will appreciate 'Act Aloof' as much as I do.
Nordic Music Review 7/10