Thursday, 9 April 2015

THE YOUNG'UNS

CD Review

Another Man's Ground

Everything you need to know about the new album from the Young'uns is summed up in the short but sharp opening track, Jimmy Go Down To Your Uncles.

The Young'uns, Sean Cooney, Michael Hughes and David Eagle
The song is only three verses but like a cartoon strip in a newspaper it is a complete story about ordinary people doing the everyday things they do to survive, sung with razor sharp harmonies and with a cheeky style which is pretty much what the trio of Sean Cooney, David Eagle and Michael Hughes do better than anyone around at the moment.
They can be raucous, witty, cutting, incisive and thoughtful but they are never dull. The only downside to an album from the three northketeers is that you don't get the banter and irreverence they love to indulge in when live on stage.
If you missed it, Benefits Street was one of the most controversial programmes of recent times so when a bunch of residents in Stockton chased the film crew from their road it was perfect fodder for Cooney and Eagle to work their magic on the story.
Without taking anything away from them, songs such as this one virtually write themselves, but of course this is what makes The Young'uns music so real, they are like mini-musical documentaries. Their clever word play put the story into a context and their close harmonies give the song a real flow.
Another song drawn from recent real life events is The Streets of Lahore which tells the story of Farzana Parveen who was murdered by her own family under the label of an honour killing. Cooney and the boys give it suitable gravitas with their gentle and solemn treatment of the song.
Tom Paine
Between the Wars from Billy Bragg is given their harmonious treatment next, it's as good a version as Bragg's original treatment but without the raw edge which he brings to so many of his songs.
With The Drift From The Land, which is one of two songs from Graeme Miles on the album, comes a social document of the change of industry in Britain from an agricultural society to an industrial one.
With the lads singing a cappella for this one their voices have a great retro-contemporary feel to it in that they sound as though they were the ones singing it originally.
Private Hughes is a simple story of a soldier who, while being shipped off to France in World War One, dropped a bottle into the sea. Inside the bottle was a message to his wife and his hope that it would somehow reach her.
Given the Cooney treatment he fleshes the bones of the story out into a gentle ballad, simply accompanied on the piano.
Civil rights campaigner Tom Paine, to say the least, led a colourful life and this story of his bones by Graham Moore tells of how his life took even greater twists after his death. The fast-paced ballad tells the story of Paine's bones being lost into the mists of time after being moved around by a variety of admirers.
The Brisk Lad is a wonderful example of how good the trio does harmonies. This traditional tune is given life by the voices of the Eagle, Cooney and Hughes not a single note is wasted and they use them within their voices with laser precision.
Benefits Street
The second of Graeme Miles' songs they have picked up is Waiting For The Ferry. Here they create an atmospheric version of the love song which was written in the bleakness of the industrial North East and yet their gentle harmonies have the ability to soften the cold hard edges of any steel structure.
School Days is another cover version, this time from the great Ewan MacColl and again which has the harshness of life ingrained in it and yet the way the trio put together their harmonies they still managed to infuse it with the romanticism about a good honest day's work.
The penultimate song predates the American Civil War. The Young'uns have this ability to instill hope into songs which have the darkest of themes. Even though it is much older they somehow give it a feel where it would easily slot into songs of the First World War and this one has shades of Hanging On The Old Barb Wire.
The trio take out the album with an original song from storyteller Cooney, Brewster & Wagner, which is based on a heart-warming story of humanity in the midst of the brutality of WWI.
One of the few tracks on the album which has musical undertones with the keyboards and accordion and has the added bonus of featuring the legend Bob Fox.
The new album out on April 27
The Young'uns are one of those bands which is steeped in tradition without being shackled by it, they were very much influenced by bands such as the Watersons and as a three-part harmony band are probably unrivalled on the folk scene at the moment.
Of course the one thing an album like this doesn't convey is their irreverent, cheeky and banter-filled performances when live but as an album of songs which are traditional and full of carefully crafted harmonies then this is what the Young'uns do best.

Another Man's Ground is released on April 27 through Hereteu Records.
You can catch their live act at Henry Tudor House, Shrewsbury on May 3. The show starts at 8.30 and tickets are £10. The trio then play The Red Lion Folk Club, King's Heath, Birmingham on May 13. They are supported by Chris Quinn and doors open at 7.15pm with the show starting 7.45pm. Tickets are £11.