Acoustic, back to roots production reveals songwriting maturity from Texas duo’s fourth.
Eight years on from their debut album, ‘Utah’, and three years since their last full length offering, ‘San Isabel’, Texas duo Jamestown Revival return with their fourth album, ‘Young Man’, unveiling a stripped back, fully acoustic sound with the band making the game-changing decision to leave out the electric guitars and heavy production and give the songs a chance to speak for themselves. That this succeeds to the level it does is primarily down to two key factors, the production and the quality of the songs.
Production and engineering duties are shared between the wonderful Robert Ellis and Josh Block, who has previously worked with Leon Bridges and White Denim. Ellis also has writing credits on the album, and if you are familiar with his work you can hear his subtle influence weaving its way through the album. Together they have managed to create a sound and feel that at the same time has both an old time roots flavour and a modern day sweet Americana groove. Yes, it’s sparse and atmospheric but its not empty or cold. Listen closely to the song structure and arrangements and you quickly realise how much is going on just beneath the surface supporting the melody and those ever perfect harmonies of Jonathan Clay and Zach Chance.
All that said, for a stripped back production to truly work it has to have the songs to work with, and here on, ‘Young Man’, it has that in abundance. From the opening track, ‘Coyote’, that gently whispers in your ear like a warm desert wind, to the title track, banjo and fiddles to the fore with an infectious chorus and back beat. Its here that the lyrical theme of the album unfolds, reflecting and trying to reconnect with the purity and innocence of a simpler time, coming to terms with the realisation that age and experience bring many things, but not necessarily the answers to the questions the naivety of youth yearns for.
Albums of this nature can sometimes lack variety in pace and mood but again this album avoids these pitfalls, making good use of the instruments and arrangements to deliver at different times, a sinister feel as on, ‘Moving Man’, a passionate delivery on, ‘Those Days’, and the jaunty jig of, ‘Way It Was’, with its wonderful guitar picking intro. ‘Old Man Looking Back’, continues the narrative of the supposed wisdom that comes with age, and the acceptance that time and experience are ultimately the best teacher.
It could be considered that Jamestown Revival have taken a risk with this stripped back approach, but it’s a risk that has more than paid off, highlighting a greater clarity and maturity than on their previous albums. The sparseness of the production has removed some of the sweet poppier undertones of the past and replaced it with something more real, more permanent, without loosing any of the accessibility or charm that their songwriting delivers. An album that highlights both progress and future possibilities.