Articles: Music Notes (Nashville Scene - October 2002)

Norwegian alt-country band St. Thomas standing on the verge of something bigger

"I have walked around for half a year now and told people that this record is going to be No. 1 on the charts...and I will be hugely disappointed if that doesn't happen."

Thomas Hansen's comments, taken from the fan site of his band St. Thomas (www.lamestain.com), reveal the Norwegian singer-songwriter's faith in his music and his ambitions to reach the largest audience possible. If the enthusiastic response in his country--where the chorus to his Top 10 hit "Cornerman" is a popular cell phone ring option--and the rest of Europe extends to American record buyers, St. Thomas' next album could indeed be a big commercial success.

And well it should. St. Thomas' music is catchy and melodic, with emotionally direct lyrics that sketch self-portraits by sharing mundane details of life in plain language. In lesser hands, such lyrics could grow tiresome and seem narcissistic, but Hansen is a natural writer whose lyrics call attention to his songs' wonderful melodies.

St. Thomas have been in town this month recording Hey, Harmony, the working title of their third album, produced by Nashville's indie rock recordist of choice, Mark Nevers. On the record, percussionist Jeremy Barnes (formerly of Neutral Milk Hotel) and bassist Matt Swanson and pianist Tony Crow (both of Lambchop) achieve a jazz-like interplay with Hansen and his longtime collaborators, guitarist Espen Mellingen and banjo player Bosse Litzheim. Hansen's warbling voice charts a melodic statement upon which the other instrumental voices in his folk orchestra comment. He also enlists Dave Cloud to sing backup on a new tune called "Ride" and an off-the-cuff cover of Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Who'll Stop the Rain?" Giant Sand's Howe Gelb was in town recently to contribute piano parts to the record.

St. Thomas field-tested tunes from Hey, Harmony a couple weeks ago before a rapt Slow Bar audience still reeling from the emotional force of Dave Cloud's performance earlier in the evening. The band expressed some disappointment with their set, but what I heard was impeccable, personable music that could appeal to both indie and mainstream tastes.

St. Thomas' final area show will be at Red Rose Coffee Shop in Murfreesboro on Tuesday, Oct. 22.

CHRIS DAVIS.



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