Parson Red Heads – Yearling

January 01, 1970

(Arena Rock Recording)


Somewhere in the rocky, desert scrub just outside Joshua
Tree, the dry, powdery bone dust of Ingram Connor whip up briefly in a passing
dust devil. Could this be a portent of an imminent invocation of the spirit of
Gram once more? Lovers of all things Gram-related; The Byrds (especially Notorious Byrd Brothers album w/o Gram),
The Flying Burrito Bros. and the International Submarine Band and their
offshoots like Beachwood Sparks, will feel compelled to slip into their
favorite Nudie suit to settle back for a listen to Yearling. This being their 3rd full album, following two EP’s and a
superb live album, it boasts a great production quality at the masterful hands
of Chris Stamey and Mitch Easter, at Easter’s studio in North Carolina. Stamey
finished the final mix of Easter’s engineering. In the nine years since the
band started in Eugene, OR, they relocated to LA for five years, to finally end
up a Portland band. This album is the anticipated ripe fruit that has been
quietly blooming and blossoming as the band grew. Lead singer Evan Way’s voice
has really developed into a very agreeable one, for both giving trusted
counsel, as well as resonating heartfelt, tender vibes on the love songs. 


As far as Burrito Brothers comparison’s, they only go as far
as their music minus the honky-tonk and Hank flavored songs. The patronymic band
is still primarily alt-country-pop with a little jangling flavor of the old
Paisley Undergrounders such as the 3 O’Clock and Rain Parade. There are
certainly a plethora of glowing superlatives to hand out for this effort, which
showcases the band firing on all cylinders; memorable songwriting, sweet
harmonies, superb playing and worthy lyrics that may be sentimental, but never
callow or cloying. They’ve hit a trifecta of ‘best release yet’, ‘breakout
album-worthy’ and a ‘best album of the year’ for the genre.


The album opens with a song from a past EP, obviously too
good to let remain in the past. “Burning Up the Sky” offers a driving, anthemic
melody, colored with the lovely harmonies of Evan, and fellow ginger-haired
wife, Brett Marie. It’s an uplifting song to open with. The last half-minute
goes out with some Dylan-esque harmonica riffs and organ. “When You Love
Somebody” gives you some heady, leathery whiffs of Poco and the Buffalo
Springfield, especially the guitar break near the end. Another beautiful
country-rock song, “Time Is Running Out” is built around the framework of
voluptuous pedal steel playing, always a treat in any of their songs. “Seven
Years Ago” is also heavily embellished with pedal steel. It’s a rather mournful
woulda-coulda-shoulda tale about focusing on looking forward, not backwards,
and hard lessons learned. “Kids Hanging Out” kicks it back into rock mode and
picks up the pace. I think Evan’s songwriting really shines on “Hard To See the
Light”, another one of his heart-rending romantic ballads I could hear being
covered by the likes of Gene Clark or Gram. Another pop beauty is “I Was Only”,
a spiritual cousin to the Beatles’ “Across the Universe.”


With eleven superb tunes and running at 49 minutes, I can’t
help but feel this album may be a ‘classic’, something you’ll still be playing
many years down the road like Sweetheart
of the Rodeo
or Everybody Knows This
Is Nowhere.
Anyone with whom many of the afore-mentioned band references
hold revered spots in their music collection, can assuredly buy Yearling, without even previewing it, I
regard it to be that robust of an album, with slight risk of disappointment. If
my accolades fall short of expectations, you can always recoup your losses
reselling the CD on Amazon, I suppose. 
With downloads, you’re on your own.


        DOWNLOAD: “When You
Love Somebody,” “Kids Hanging Out,” and “Burning Up the Sky” BARRY ST. VITUS

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