The Young’uns: Strangers – album review
The Young’uns: Strangers
Released 29 September 2017
The return of Teeside’s purveyors of off kilter humour and poignant songwriting. On their new album, The Young’uns confirm why they’ve been crowned BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards Best Group for the last two consecutive years. Everyday superheroes in jumpers and creased pants; just like the people they sing about on Strangers.
Ten songs which gather together those strangers of the album title; ordinary people doing extraordinary things. Tales of human struggle – often with the odds stacked heavily against through racism, bigotry and facism. It wouldn’t be a Young’uns album without them spitting out the word ’Fascist’ at least once or without a hearty and lighthearted old singalong moment or two, but Strangers seems to sit with an unfamiliar solemnity albeit set within a familiar singing framework that’s ultimately uplifting and inspiring.
Ice broken with Maggie Holland’s A Place Called England that sets the scene nicely, it’s time to lay out the red carpet and invite Sean Cooney to step forward in his role as songwriter of the remaining nine songs that elevate his status into a premier league songwriter, the promised land where he’ll find himself in hallowed company.
Talking for which, if this were a Dylan album we’d be getting all hot under the collar over two pieces that stand out as major songs. Unusually, they’re songs where the usual unaccompanied singing framework gets adorned with some subtle instrumentation which lifts Be The Man and Dark Water into rarely charted territory. The former comes resplendent with the richness of the flugelhorn from Jude Abbot, Rachel McShanes brief string appearance and the less is more piano from fellow Young’un David Eagle. The latter a chilling recount of just one tale of migrant bravery – images of tying a phone round his neck and fresh corpses drifting by saw the song deservedly joining the Transports folk opera performances.
Elsewhere you’ll find the Cooney, Hughes, Eagle trio holding singing court on an assortment gathered from stories and often little known acts of courage and strength that define humility and humbleness. All rolled out in a typically uncomplicated and unpretentious fashion. And it wouldn’t be a Young’uns album without some songs that have their roots back in their native NorthEast. The Hartlepool Pedlar turns out to be the tale behind our very British M&S brand with origins in Eastern European migration and a couple of folk heroes become established in Gafoor’s Bus and Cable Street. To be fair, there’s a depth in Strangers that can’t be covered in a few hundred words. Like our old Maths teacher used to say when we had our theorems to learn; read, learn, mark and inwardly digest.
So is a hat trick of Best Band Folk Awards in the offing? Don’t bet against it although the odds might be against three on the trot. The best money is on Strangers as Best Album but for a sure fire tip, you can bet your boots on Dark Water as Best Song. You heard it here first…
You can hear Be The Man from the album here:
The Young’uns website is here