WRITTEN BY: John Peterson
Writing under the name No Lonesome, Jeb Backe brings a fresh approach to folk songwriting. With just two singles out so far, they are laying excellent groundwork for a full project, capturing a niche that was previously untouched. With further development, No Lonesome has the potential to usher in a new wave of indie-acoustic songs. Although Backe grew up in Pennsylvania and currently writes in Chicago, there is a distinctly western sound to their music. Within their vivid storytelling lies an openness—a rejection of the bustling crowds of the city and an embrace of quiet plains and cascading rivers. Their songs speak to a lost folklore, a word-of-mouth narrative of timeless proportions.
No Lonesome’s newest single, “Strange How,” was just released on November 5th, and expands on the sounds presented in their debut, “For Carlo.” Opening with multiple acoustic guitars dueling over the same gliding melody, the soft energy of the song reveals itself immediately but leaves plenty of room to grow. A pulsing shaker sits deep within the mix, moving the track forward while the rest of the drums wait patiently to enter. A brief brush on the snare compliments the shy bass to tease the upcoming chorus, where a hi-hat takes rhythmic lead. At last, the main theme returns, this time with strikingly charming whistling—layers of pitched air melded together into a single breeze.
All the while, Backe’s softly harmonized vocals set the scene. There’s a distinct honesty to their voice. Even if these tales are tall, Backe imbues them with life. Like a first-rate folk tale, the words leap off the page, dancing towards a stage to reenact the story. The reserved tremor of Backe’s delivery brings emotional depth to lines like, “She smoked herself a mess, ash on her dress, lookin’ Monday’s best.” Roping you into No Lonesome’s world, her state begs your sympathy and ignites your speculation.
Contrasting with the deep baritone they showcased in “For Carlo,” the bridge of “Strange How” reveals Backe’s gentle upper register. Like a strong gust of wind, the short chorus blows into the peak of the track. With new urgency, Backe sings, “Strange how the one you love hurts.” The phrase is repeated, however, and listeners are forced to pause and reflect on its importance. Strange? Yes, it’s strange, but best not to let these thoughts fester. Every journey has its hills and valleys—the nomad travels on regardless.
The opening theme makes a final appearance, concluding the song’s chapter with grace. Still, a full book awaits, and who can resist the urge to read its complete contents? Check out No Lonesome’s newest single and hold your breath for what they release next.