Wednesday, July 13, 2011


William The Contractor’s debut album “Tall Stories” was released at the tail end of March on Stockholm’s excellent (and excellently named) Crying Bob Records. Given his choice of name and the photo of a solitary and stern-looking Swede you might expect this to be a solo album, the work of a well-travelled troubadour and his battered, trusty acoustic guitar. However “Tall Stories” is much more sophisticated and complex and surprising than that.

Markus Bergqvist (as William The Contractor is known to friends and family) plays virtually every instrument on this record but makes it sound like a full-rounded, tightly drilled band even when songs start quite humbly. So yes you get quietly strummed intros to say ‘Old Witch’ or ‘Daydreams’ (and the video below is of a solo performance) but on record they soon blossom into gently orchestrated folk-pop that reminds me of the polish and melody that recent Herman Dune albums bring to the tag ‘anti-folk’. But there’s a greater variety on this debut record. You’ll find the bluesy folk-rock of tour-diary-in-song ‘My Little Man’, the curious finger-picked folk balladry of ‘Lady and A Snake’, the Dylanesque hoe-down of ‘Old Witch’, the rousing anti-capitalist (I think) anthem 'Black Gold' or the country banjo revenge tale ‘Hanna Hanged Him High’ which sounds most like label-mates Friska Viljor.

Elsewhere, the autobiographical ‘Warehouseman’, opening with solitary organ and downcast strumming, creates a sombre tone that reminds me of the sadly departed St Thomas (and particularly his similarly named ‘Cornerman’). But despite some of the suppressed bitterness in the verse (“I’m sick and tired of the shit I take / when I work as a warehouse man / my old man died of a heart attack / and I don’t really understand who I am”) there is joyful optimism in the chorus (“take my hand and teach me how to laugh and smile again”) a technique repeated in several of these bitter-sweet songs.

Bergqvist can date precisely when he sang publicly for the first time: 2006 at this father’s funeral. This sense of coming to music through personal tragedy explains the emotional weight wrapped up in these songs. Some are light and playful, others more intense and even morbid but if all feels fresh and engaging even when the lyrics become more fantastical or abstract or the tone becomes more downbeat. “Tall Stories” finishes with the wistful reverie of lost love and healing ‘Above the Clouds’ in which Bergqvist sings “I’m looking for a reason to get out of bed”. Well he’s had his share of tragedy, heartbreak and routine physical labour but luckily for the listener his songs are indeed a reason to rouse yourself. Berqvist did infact work as a warehouse man and contractor but as William The Contractor he proves an adept and versatile artisan; and “Tall Stories” is the spoils of well-served, if more recent, apprenticeship in musical craftsmanship.

William The Contractor - Black Gold by Cryingbob

William The Contractor Tall Stories [BUY or BUY]

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