Sunday, June 7, 2009
The bluegrass stylings of Brooklyn’s Yarn have been kicking around my iTunes for about a year now. Other than a B&B show they did nearish Philly last fall they haven’t done much playin in these here parts. That is until last week. The six fellas (three guitars, one stand up bass, a drummer and a mandolin player) crowded the stage at The Tin Angel. Being somewhat familiar with their recorded material I was expecting a night of country leaning music. What I got was far closer to a two hour classic rock jam session. That’s right two whole hours of music to fully appreciate what Yarn has to offer.
This live version of Yarn was all electric vs the acoustic version captured on their albums. Which took the entire show to an unanticipated level of rock out. Ignited by the electricity their mandolin player,Andrew Hendryx, offered up some of the fiercest riffs I have heard from any instrument in recent memory. On the faster pieces the group was prone to passing the "riff torch" around generously usually ending up with a mandolin solo. For good reason too, as his contribution made an excellent anchor for these free flow breaks.
Though Blake Christiana usually carries the leads comfortably-- and provides very easy stage banter-- Yarn's most recent album Empty Pockets featured female vocals (Edie Brickell & Caitlin Cary) and on this evening they were replaced flawlessly by Trevor Macarthur. The dexterity of each player was evident during their numerous solos. Through out the two hours each was given the opportunity to strut their stuff and managed to keep is interesting while not getting too showy or losing the core rhythm of the song. They also managed to criss cross a wide swath of their collected works, but in the electrified format it was basically all new. When the drummer,Jay Frederick, took his solo towards the end of the show (apologies for not knowing the song title) there was a distinct departure from anything remotely bluegrass. His percussion was pure southern rock and when put within the context of his bandmate's solos the entire group seemed to shift towards a new era. It was not surprising to hear Blake mention the next album will be fully plugged in.
I had brought my mother (the progenitor of my musical nerdiness) to the show and at the end she said had I not told her it was a bluegrass show she would have classified them as pure rock. This also sent her on a riff of her own comparing them to such classic bands as Poco and Dire Straights. There are also strong parallels with the likes of Whiskeytown and Ryan Adam's and The Cardinals but considering they all haunt the same Brooklyn environs a little influence is to be expected. After the two hours I witnessed I am no longer content with listening to just the acoustic so get on the recording guys. And the rest of you, go seek Yarn out. They are all over the east in the next few weeks and its well worth the price of admission.