Stephen Young & The Union: Wilderness Machine Review

stephen young albumStephen Young is an artist who blurs the boundaries while enticing you into his brand of country folk. There seems to be more than that though, as on this record, Young also stops off at Jazztown for a bit.

In his press release, Young is quoted as saying “the concept of the album is loosely based on a character, who left his hometown after the break-up of a relationship and the death of a close friend. He moves to a remote house in the mountains where he writes a series of letters that lead to a novel.” Interesting but can he deliver throughout?

Lead single, ‘Coke and Rum’ starts off the album at break neck speed. This track is pure contemporary Americana, country blues updated with subtle production effects. Maybe I’m reading too much into the whole ‘concept’ feel but ‘Fairbanks’ has a drum beat reminiscent of a train, a beautiful guitar sound and subtle strings. Here, for some reason, Young sounds uncannily like Brendan Murphy of The 4 of us. Like this one a lot.

‘Wilderness Machine’ brings us on a journey of highs and lows, and musically from the minimalist ‘Hung, Drawn and Sung To’, the jazzy ‘Heart Race’ and the full band sound of ‘Dreamless Man’. Produced by Gavin Glass, the soundscape encapsulates country folk instruments like the banjo alongside beautifully recorded acoustic guitars. It’s nice to be able to hear fret noise from two different guitars without overkill.

Throughout the album, emotion can be heard running through Young’s vocals as he sings of loss, regret and reminiscing tales, making him older than his years. This is a really interesting listen, it’s seems like the kind of album that you take something new from with each listen.