The Youngers – Heritage

The Youngers

The sleeve doesn’t give too much away, mostly plain black and an image of an oval wheel within which sits a bird on a branch. Turn the sleeve over and the production is credited to one John Carter Cash, and the song titles – “Highway 9”, “Truck Driving Man”, “Big Ol’ Freight Train” – are so immediately redolent of Johnny Cash himself that I had my own notions of what Heritage was going to sound like just about done and dusted without even taking the CD out of its case.

And while the album is most assuredly a work of unashamedly traditional Nashville country rock, it is also the work of one of the finest bands presently playing country, and has all the energy and grit you would expect. That and more than one or two touches of the kind of social commentary which is always a little too outspoken for the indie world, where no-one has an overdraft and songs about actually working went out along with quiffs and cassettes. How about some relief for a railroad man, then? Given the present climate of financial bail outs and mortgage miseries, these sentiments don’t sound quite so subversive as they might’ve done a couple of years back, and The Youngers don’t need any lessons in making themselves heard.

The music is, as you might expect, superb. The intro to opening number “Heartbreaker” is an immediate attention grabber, its combination of picked guitar and keyboard marking out Heritage as a work of some quite pristine though occasionally subtly underworked musicianship. The whole thirteen tracks positively reek of country class and it doesn’t let up until the final note of “Downtown” has drifted away.

It is also a while since a lyric of the quality of “In The Middle Of The Night” found its way onto my stereo. A sax intro leads into an epic tale of Saturday night neon romance that only Bruce Springsteen in his heyday ever really made work. Meanwhile, other less overtly wordy songs such as “In The Morning” leave me wondering what might happen were today’s equivalents of The Fall or even Travis to interpret them. And I’m thinking one or two other bands might. Heritage is quite probably going to show up as an album of the year in the Country charts, and is just the kind of record that might make its influence felt in one or two less than usual places, although if you aren’t in the mood for some hard-nosed barroom sentiments and slide guitars I’d suggest you ignore it entirely.