Wednesday, February 09, 2005


The Yearlings (Chris Parkinson & Robyn Chalklen) have long been a favourite in the funhouse shed. Of course we hold them dear to our hearts ‘cos we first unleashed them onto the world – or at least to the 100 odd folk who purchased funhouse #2 for the cdr (Now I Wanna Be Your Stooge - A Stooges Tribute) that came with it. You see The Yearlings, then in the clever guise of "Chris & Bob", recorded a rousing bluegrass version of Raw Power for this tribute to the stooges that blew damn near everyone who heard it away. I knew Chris through work and knowing he was a muso, suggested he might want to record something for the tribute. What I didn’t expect was for him to completely rearrange Raw Power and play it with such beauty and passion that they managed to claim the song as their own. That recording was The Yearlings first outing. After that I made it my duty to see them play live as often as I could and to tell everyone who would (or wouldn’t) listen they should be seeing them too. Many friends were dragged to the pub to see this band who I could only describe as "acoustic, not country, not bluegrass, something else…" In the end I settled for "pure". It was the only word I could think of to express how I felt about them. Because they aren’t country (Tamworth rejected them), they aren’t strictly bluegrass, (too middle class for that!), they’re an amalgam of styles, of the picking of early folk, of country when it told stories and didn’t need tight pants or hokey videos, of songs on the front porch, of friendships… It’s two people (a couple) on a stage surrounded by acoustic guitars, playing songs, telling stories and letting you into their world for an hour or so. Because even if we weren’t there you just get the feeling these two would be doing this anyway, in fact I know they would. This is what they live to do, play and sing and enjoy the day. They share simple stories, tiny moments of the day to day, old folk songs, porch tunes and friendly banter and we just happen to be there to hear them as well. Hell, I even had them play my fortieth birthday. At which they ripped through a set of seventies covers in their own Yearlings style, with Chris once again rearranging everything from Skyhooks to Black Sabbath to make them their own. (And I don’t mean in that hokey Hayseed Dixie style, I mean so you wouldn’t recognise them instantly as someone else’s song but instead think that they were their own)
Now with the release of their second album Wind Already Blown (Thru Shock) you can hear the purity of The Yearlings as well. Already contender for album of the year, the beauty of their songs loses nothing in the studio, I still can’t get over how good they are, how pure it all remains – two guitars, two voices, harmonies and the feeling you’ve dropped into a private conversation but it’s all okay, they forgive you anyway. Over the last couple of years I’ve noticed Robyn become a lot more confident in herself and her ability on stage and off and that’s reflected here in her playing and in her lyrics. Chris has always been seen I guess as the main force in this duo because of his great playing. He is a guy who loves his guitar – hell, any stringed instrument – if it’s got strings he can play it but Rob is definitely not playing second fiddle (ha ha). This is the album I think that will make people realise that – she always was the better singer anyway but now the strength of her songwriting abilities, her own work on guitar have grown considerably and this album shows it. There are lines in Fallen Star, Trouble Some More, Dirty Wings that I wish I had written – hell, I might just pinch them one day anyway.
But what is their style? I know I still haven’t really said it – I don’t know that I can. It is definitely based in country but it’s old country music with some early american folk, bluegrass, maybe even a touch of acoustic blues thrown in – it comes back to that word – PURE. It is what it is, nothing more. They play because it’s what they do and we are blessed that we are allowed to witness it.
Look I’m a cynic, an athiest, a drunk, a womaniser and a basic prick but these guys never fail to lift me up, to make me believe in something, even if it’s only temporary. But the power of friendships, love, of enjoying life – when I listen to The Yearlings I can briefly believe and imagine that it is all possible. If they can do that for me imagine what they can do for you.


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