Thursday, October 24, 2013

Prescription Bluegrass Reviews Finnders & Youngberg - I DON’T WANT LOVE YOU WON’T GIVE UNTIL I CRY

Prescription Bluegrass CD REVIEW  by W. J. Hallock    FINNDERS & YOUNGBERGI love it when I’m not expecting a new CD from an artist that I really like and a new one magically appears at my door.

Finnders and Youngberg’s new music arrived and it was in my CD player immediately! I was very impressed with their last release, so I knew that this one was going to be good…….. and it has lived up to all my expectations, and beyond. 

The song writing is top shelf, the vocals are warm, expertly sung and expressive, the pickin’ is outrageously good, the personality and charisma of each player lights up the tracks, and it is recorded, mixed and mastered with an artistic and technical savvy. There isn’t a weak spot on the entire CD, and all that was evident after just one listening!

The line up of players in FY5 on this CD is the same as on their last recording, and again it was Produced by the band at Swingfingers Studio, Fort Collins, Colorado and released on Swingfingers Records.

FY5 member Aaron Youngberg plays banjo, steel guitar and also handled the engineering and mixing duties. His wife, Erin Youngberg, bass player and singer in the band, and he, own the studio.

The very first thing that I noticed, was that Erin and Mike Finnders, singer, guitarist and main song writer, have really found a strong rapport in their harmonies. Their sense of timing and intonation is dead on, their breath control is totally in sync and they bounce lyrics off each other with finesse and abandon. On “Lonely Too Long,” they sing opposing lyrics back and forth and the result is a cat and mouse game of exciting wordplay. That kind of singing not only reveals how good they each are vocally, but also how good a song writer Mr. Finnders is to be able to write lyrics knowing that they were each capable of pulling off these vocal gymnastics. That kind of confidence is what breeds innovation, individuality and it pushes the boundaries way beyond the norm.

FY5 has lifted their game with a greater sense of solid consistency and comradery, and it shows as a major asset on this CD. This band is all in, and all in for the long haul with their music. Listen to the last CD, and then listen to this one and tell me you don’t agree.
“Hey Ramona,” written by mandolinist Rich Zimmerman and fiddler Ryan Drickey is “almost” an instrumental. With just enough words to be easily learned by the audience, it becomes not only a sing-a-long song, but it leaves plenty of room for the band to show off their instrumental pickin’ prowess. It’s sure to be a crowd pleaser in their live shows, PULL QUOTEand if you’re driving while listening to it, watch your foot on the gas pedal!

There are a lot of men (and to be fair, women, too) that will relate to song #3. It’s simply called “Infidelity,” and it’s my favorite Mike Finnders song on the CD. Merle Haggard was once quoted as saying: “If you want a song to be real, you have to go where it hurts….” Mike has obviously been where it hurts, because he nails this one vocally, melodically, and lyrically. It bounces along in ¾ time as if it were going to be a happy little ditty, but it‘s plain as day very quickly that’s not what this song is.    

The more I hear Mike’s voice, the better I like it, and it sounds like he’s singing his own harmony here, too. Mike has a lot of power in his voice, and just when you think he’s at his peak, he’s able to grab another gear and punch it even harder.

There are a lot of dynamics in this arrangement, all the solos are played with strength and conviction, Erin plays her bass lines with drive and purpose, but, there are also moments when the band brings it way down and quiet. The only lead guitar part Mike plays, he plays here……  and the affect is perfect for the song. His single note simplicity and soft volume, played with feel and dignity, matches the loneliness the lyrics imply, and in that segment you can almost see him alone in an empty, quiet house. If they were going to do a video, this is THE song to shoot.
The title song for this CD, “I Don’t Want Love You Won’t Give Until I Cry,” starts off with a lush, orchestral beginning written, arranged and played by Ryan Drickey. I believe I’m hearing cello and bowed bass also, but my old ears could be deceiving me. Regardless, the result of Ryan’s work is exquisite and Aaron captured and mixed it beautifully. As sweet as the beginning is, Mike Finnders  has written a chord change that has the vocals start with a surprising minor chord that immediately sets the mournful tone of the rest of the song.

Erin sings this one with passion and a despondency that perfectly fit’s the lyrics. I find it very smart of Mike to have shared this song with Erin……   it just wouldn’t have had the same affect or dynamic with Mike singing it. The song really calls out for a female voice, just like the song “Nebraska” did on the their last CD.

Mike is a two time Merlefest song writing contest winner in the Gospel and Bluegrass divisions, and as hard as it may be for a song writer to part with their product, it is the right thing to do for the song at times. It also shows Mike’s commitment to the on going success of FY5. Not all song spinners and story tellers are so gracious or generous.     

Aaron plays a sweet pedal steel guitar solo on the first half of the instrumental break, and then the drama of Ryan’s strings follows. Aaron’s steel fills are also strategically placed to counter Rich’s tasteful mandolin work. The emotions in this song are very strong, and it appears that a lot of thought was put into what instrument was used in each segment of the song, and you can’t argue with the results….. this is a very well crafted song recorded with perfection, talent and grace.

The sixth and final song on the CD is going to keep every hard core FY5 fan happy as a clam. “Girl From The North Fork Valley” has every instrument runnin’ at full throttle and is 2:49 of bluegrass bliss. I don’t know who this “Girl” is who inspired this tune, but she obviously had quite an impact on the band. I’m assuming she is a Colorado “Girl” who would be welcome at any East Coast Festival! A great song to end the CD!     

There are only two things about this release that I don’t understand…..
First, on the inside cover of the CD case there are six artsy photos that have absolutely no connection to the music. One may be a picture of Erin, which is quite good, but, that area could have been filled with more pertinent FY5 info. Not everyone, mostly new fans, knows all the details of who, what, where, when and why of the band. As hot as this band is, and  the number of new  converts to the FY5 fold there are, information is valuable.

Secondly, almost all the CD’s sent my way for review have between ten and fourteen songs on them. Here there are only six, and as a fan and a listener, I found myself wanting more to hear. This is good stuff, and maybe I’m just greedy for more of the “good stuff!” During the wild fires that ravaged Northern Colorado over a year ago, FY5 had to move their studio/home, I believe, two times, and I think we can all be glad they didn’t lose anything to Mother Nature’s wrath.

Right in the middle of writing this review, I had to leave on a scheduled trip to see our son and his wife in Salt Lake City, and on the way back we stayed two nights with old friends in Durango, CO. Wouldn’t you know it, right there on the Starbucks’s wall was a poster for a November 9th concert of Finnders and Youngberg at The Strater Hotel showroom! I saw Tim and Molly O’Brien there years ago when we still lived in Durango, and I can truly say the venue will be perfect for FY5!  I really wish we were going to be there……  In case you haven’t guessed by now, YEP……..  add this one to your music collection, and IF you’re going to be in Durango, DO NOT miss seeing them live!

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