Old Town Crier is only one man, namely Jim Lough, but he did a good job making it sound like a collective cacophony, delicately sewn together with madness, abandon, and raw feeling. Released on March 13th of last year, I’m Longing for You in Middleboro, Mass, is a brilliant collection of heartfelt, sorrowful, searing, raunchy rock ‘n’ roll songs. Upon my first listen, I could tell that this was an opportunity of sorts for songwriter Jim Lough to do something different than he normally does.
Lough is also a member of the Mass bluegrass band, Riley Coyote, so I was correct in thinking this was a passion project of his, and I could tell because if I’m Longing for You’ is anything, it’s honest. When you have a few years of experience in a collaborative project under your belt, you learn the heavy but fruitful lessons of collaboration and compromise. The choices that are made in a collaborative group might not always be the ones you would have made along, but the upside to this is that you learn how to coexist creatively with other musicians, and most importantly, it teaches you humility and to swallow your pride.
Another beautiful reward derived from collaboration is that you get to find out what you want from music made solely through your creative instinct. Perhaps this is why I get the feeling that although I have not listened to Riley Coyote, I prefer Old Town Crier. It’s because I would choose rock ‘n’ roll over bluegrass any day of the week.
There are certainly hints of bluegrass in his newest solo album; all the songs from it originate from the genre, that much is clear; his voice bears the markings of a bluegrass-accented twang. But with songs like track three, ‘I Might Get Lost’, the drums, which kicks it off, are reminiscent of the Phil Spector school of songwriting and then subsequently detours down a short alleyway of John Mellencamp and Springsteen folkiness. The quality of the recording is Lo-fi and the tone of his distorted guitar is on the brink of ripping at the seams.
Track one, ‘Don’t Go’, reminds me of Blonde on Blonde-era Dylan in the timbre of his voice and the joviality of a carefree attitude and no holds barred in a slight decline in mental fortitude. When dealing with pure rock ‘n’ roll, you definitely want to toy with the edge of insanity a little bit.
Track 2, ‘Easy’ is a nice enough song, although it is my least favorite track on the record. While a sweet lullaby-like melody works well on a mandolin, it sounds too predictable to me and a bit of an underachievement. The song picks up a little more when we hit the bridge leading into the chorus – this part caught my ear – good hook.
‘Into the Dark’ – Now we’re into the murky waters of the twilight hours of the EP. This is usually my favorite part and it certainly is on this collection. ‘Into the Dark’ is an exceptional song. While I typically enjoy more sombre songs in general, this track has more depth and I get the sense I could keep revisiting it and keep getting a little something new from it.
The final track on the EP – ‘Moonlight Road’ – is a nice bookend and represents all the best elements of his songwriting on this album. Lough has an interesting ability to take desperation and dress it up in a nice poetic turn of phrase. The other thing I really like about the EP in general is that all the songs are relatively short.
To say the least, I would definitely keep a lookout for anything else Old Town Crier may release in the future. Good shit.