If you are a folkie you are probably aware of The Young‘Uns who were the winners of this years best group award at the Radio Two Folk Awards and this April released Another Man’s Ground their third album. I had a broad awareness of them but receiving the CD out of the blue as a surprise random gift from a friend bought them fully into my consciousness. It was a well chosen prezzie and as you read the review which follows bear in mind it was written by a totally unrepentant folkie.
It is an album which mixes original material, with traditional tunes and more contemporary covers.
The first track is Jimmy Go Down to Your Uncles and it is a beautifully harmonised piece which has something of the Dubliners about it.
One of the two stand out songs is the second song You Won’t Find Me on Benefits Street. This combines left wing traditional folk with a contemporary theme. It is apparently inspired by a group of Stockton residents who chased off the makers of the reality TV show; a programme which has given rise to many complaints about the stigmatisation of the poor. As with the best folk songs it combines humour, politics and storytelling.
The Streets of Lahore is another lyrical tale but one with no humour just a stark message to those who believe that honour killing is ok. It tells the story of Farzeena Parvene who was killed on the streets of Pakistan in 2014 in an honour killing which took place on the streets of Lahore.
The tone is lifted by a wonderful version of Billy Bragg’s Between the Wars. This is clearly sing-a-long time and much of the album indeed sounds like it would work best with a bunch of friends listening together late in the evening with a few glasses of cider, wine or ale on the table.
The Drift From the Land tells the story of those who move from the rural countryside to the industrial town through rural necessity. It is in some ways a generic folk modern folk song theme and is probably the weakest song on this strong album. That said, it’s certainly not a chore to listen to with it’s clear vocals and harmonising. I’m sure it probably works really, really well live and loses something on a recording.
Private Hughes begins brings in piano and has a different sound to much of the material here. It is a gentle and lilting tune with a sweet but melancholy theme.
The slight drift into mediocrity which the previous two tracks give is well and truly broken with Tom Paine’s Bones which is an amazing tune. It is a great song with beautiful lyrics and more of a danceable beat. The lyrics of this song by Graham Moore are catchy and more Braggesque in style.
The Brisk Lad is a traditional tune which sounds really contemporary. It has a warm feel to it.
Waiting for the Ferry finds the piano back in the mix and again you find yourself feeling like you should be snuggled up in front of a fire or chilling outside of a tent as you listen. It’s the sort of track which gives you a hug as you listen.
Then it is on to School Days Over which is a Ewan McColl cover. It is another sing along tune which pays homage to the more modern tradition which they have come out of and really shows off their harmonising and strengths of their unaccompanied voices.
There is almost break as they go into Tenting Tonight, a strong peace song. This tune has that feel of folk which is almost like gospel and it almost sounds like a hymn being sung. This is not surprising as it has its roots in the American Civil War.
The peace theme and quasi religious feel is continued in Brewster and Wagner, although this is a darker song in tone. The album ends on a note which underlines what is so good about this group their ability to sing unsentimental lyrics in a way which is beautiful and touching.
Really glad I encountered this album which comes into the get it if you are a folkie and try it if you’re not category. Now just need to catch them live some time. I’m not going to make it to Folk East to see them….but if you can get along I highly recommend both the festival and the band to you.
Note: This review first appeared on my other blog Learning from Hagar and co, prior to me setting up this blog specifically for reviews