A reflective, deeply personal document of a period in time, framed by the uncertainty surrounding political and environmental change.
‘Who You’ve Been’ is Yoder’s sixth album; his previous release ‘Inherited Darkness’ saw the light of day back in 2017. During the intervening years, it appears life got in the way, but it has provided rich pickings in terms of songwriting subject matter. Yoder, former frontman of the more rock-focused band Cassavettes, penned all 13 tracks on ‘Who You’ve Been’ which was produced by Jeremy Moses Curtis (who has previously worked with Booker T), Curtis also contributing bass.
From the outset, ‘Love Can be Simple‘ (a gentle, inoffensive introduction to the record), sets the tone lyrically; “Like an artist desperate to understand, Trading in his eyes to see as another man, I shed my skin and I sailed for foreign land, To find the answers, oh“. While ‘Godamn Shame‘ is more rocking, driven by a guitar riff; it’s a love song, but Yoder expresses frustration at being unable to adequately communicate the extent of his feelings to the object of his love. ‘Ancients‘, with acoustic guitar the dominant sound, is a standout song. Lyrically contemplative, Yoder shares pre-wedding thoughts, particularly his doubts about whether his bride will love him. “There you’re standing in that white dress, Can’t stop thinking about how beautiful you look, And how can I deserve you, such a perfect being”.
‘Born Lucky‘ is jazz-tinged and underpinned by some great piano playing by Brooks Milgate; think Cab Calloway’s ‘Minnie the Moocher’. There’s more doubt and anxiety here, this time about raising a family with the world in its current state; Yoder sings “Friend asks why we’d bring a child to this place, Who knows what kind of world they’ll inherit at this rate?” then “And it’s only getting hotter”. This is followed by ‘Picking Flowers on the Moon‘, a short instrumental interlude.
‘Dark-Haired Girl‘ is another standout. There’s a folky feel to the song, boasting a strong melody, with Cilla Bonnie adding harmony vocal to good effect. On ‘With All My Heart‘ the scene is set “Feel a load of pressure pushing down on me, Collapses me slowly ‘til I can hardly breathe, And you speak softly, but it’s all I need, How’d you make such miracles feel routine?”. Yoder’s got it bad.
Finally, ‘Honeybee‘ throws up some unanswered questions. leaving listeners on a bit of a cliffhanger. From lyrics such as “My honeybee, honey, where can you be? Oh, you sought a new love.” then “Thought it might’ve worked ’cause we’re both dog people, ‘Til I realized I’m the dog you love kicking” listeners could infer that things have gone wrong. Here’s hoping things work out well for the Yoder family.
In summary, this is an okay listen from a musical point of view, but lyrically strong at times.