Bluegrass roots with echoes of Darlingside harmonies in promising debut from Berlin-based trio.
‘Acid Folk’ is the debut album from Berlin-based trio ‘Yonder Boys’, and its genre-stretching musical aspirations match the geographical spread of its members, hailing from Australia (David Stewart Ingleton, vocals, banjo), the USA (Jason Serious, vocals, guitar) and Chile (Tomás Peralta vocals, mandolin, lap steel, banjo, bass). Since forming in 2018 they have performed as support for Billy Bragg, The Wood Brothers, Timber Timbre, Other Lives and Nathaniel Rateliff. The strongest influence, bluegrass, is evident in the prominence of banjo and mandolin in many of the ten songs on the release, but the other striking feature is the soaring vocal harmonies, which take the band into the realm spearheaded by Fleet Foxes, in their earlier days, and now the preserve of Darlingside.
Thus the bar is set high, and on some tracks, notably up-tempo album opener ‘Rabbit Song’ the arrangements on ‘Acid Folk’ are in the zone, although the mixes never quite achieve the sonic clarity needed to allow the multiple vocal harmonies to sparkle above the underlying instrumentation.
At the other end of the albums’ spectrum of material is ‘The Great American Pussy Grab’, which takes us firmly into the Beach Boys sound, with classic high harmony fills in the chorus, over a percussion led track with guitar and bass, but still with banjo linking to the albums main musical theme. Its lyrics put us firmly in the Trump era “It’s her first inauguration party/Gonna buy the Indiana Mall/Gonna sit next to a Supermodel/Kentucky Fried Drive thru’s full/It’s the worst day/Worst day of the year/It’ time to say congratulation senator/Oh, my what big and terrible hands you have/All the better to feel you baby/The Great American Pussy Grab”.
Closest to traditional bluegrass is up tempo ‘Look at What You Done’, driven by banjo, guitar and mandolin, with lyrics by Ingleton, over music by Norman Blake, a tale of anguish and revenge “Look at what you done my dear, what you darling done/You led me to an open grave, with a loaded gun/Saw you from a mile away in a cloud of dust/Distant look upon your face, and cheeks like cheery plums”.
Still with bluegrass roots ‘High on a Mountain’ adds harmonica and a thumping tuba bass line to a spirited track, while sax features on downtempo ‘Mosey on Down’. Folk/old-time roots are evident on ‘House Carpenter’, a traditional song featuring an arrangement which gradually builds from a cappella to full band, with trumpet and fiddle added to the mix.
Album closer ‘Il Pesce Spada’ also starts a cappella, over found sounds of the sea, before building in its second half to a rousing instrumental outro.
An ambitious and promising debut from a talented trio.