Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Night Beds Wows on "Country Sleep"

When you think about it, we're actually lucky that this musical day and age is decorated with so many honey-voiced male songwriters, behind some of the most conceptually riveting and rich melodied albums of our time. Some critics, however, would argue that the sounds begin to blend together, originality can be sacrificed and it becomes hard to differentiate those who palm the key to longevity in a loaded folk-rock and alt-country genre.

This may be true. But great artists never get lost. And, upon first listen to 23 year-old Winston Yellen's "Even If We Try," his first single as Night Beds, through to the welcome arrival of his debut Country Sleep in my inbox yesterday morning - I have every reason to believe he's very, very different - and will prove quickly to any skeptics that this is the case. The dreamy falsetto that echoes through the Nashville native's rustic, emotional Country Sleep tales have rightfully drawn countless comparisons to Bon Iver and Ryan Adams, but also deserve their own credit, coming from an early-20s touring rookie who took it upon himself to drop out of school and rent Johnny Cash and June Carter-Cash's Sycamore homestead to lay down the tracks.

His mysterious songwriting wisdom and diverse melodic offerings are almost confusing. It would be easy to say that his legendary recording location spookily rubbed off on the young gun, but his out-of-left-field, already formidable presence is founded in something probably beyond our explanation; something rooted in a powerful natural vocal ability and his own quiet observations that have translated into ten magical stories. And don't think he sticks to one note or notion, either. With his creamy croon as the time-stopping anchor throughout each track, Yellen flips between feelings; sampling buoyant countryside strings on "Ramona" and jangly Americana on the charming "Borrowed Time," before sliding into the sunset confessional "Cherry Blossoms" - a profound golden moment on the album sweetened with sliding plucks and layers of his lonely vocals uttering, "Longing for a love I've never known...drunk on whiskey, God don't let me go."

And although "Even If We Try" was more than enough to stun as the EP's first taste, it still hasn't been lost amidst the new batch of earthy alt-country sounds. His stunning a capella howl of the song title pulls the same tear-jerking heart strings, solidifying Yellen as a vocal diamond in the rough who deserves the quick skyrocket to critical acclaim.

If this is where the future of the genre lies, we're in good company.


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